Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alice Springs Chicken

It's been crazy around the Homestead! Yesterday the sun finally broke through after 24 days of rain. My son and I filled two trailer loads of future compost ie. manure - who wants to shovel in the mucky rain?! I am so thankful we live in a predominantly sandy area. I can't imagine clay soil after so much rain: boggy, slippery, muddy with puddles to slop through everywhere!  Here, the water drains almost immediately. leaving just wet sand that tracks on our shoes - a minor grievance in comparison.  My biggest chore is keeping the feed buckets under cover so the hay doesn't get wet. Our barn space is limited so I try to keep the feed outdoors if possible. On days like these I find myself watching the radar and running to cover the troughs several times a day, but the bonus is - I haven't had to water gardens or planted pots or fruit trees or berry bushes for weeks - just the greenhouse.

In the meantime I've been working on indoor projects; mainly rearranging the entire house.  Remember these?

Not a Christmas would go by without finding one of these in our stockings.  The object of the game is to shuffle the numbers around until they are in numerical order.  This is exactly what rearranging my house is like.  Our first step was to disassemble the bunk beds in the kitchen and move them into the scrapbook/reloading/guest room, but in order to have a place to put them we had to move the drafting table and a bookshelf.  The rolling paper trays had to be shuffled to the other side of the room and the reloading table had to be adjusted. Bob took off the closet door and cut open the entire closet framework to make a much larger alcove for a file cabinet, clothing and storage. The cheap paperboard dresser came out of the closet and is in the living room waiting to be thrown on the burn pile - really, it isn't even worth giving away.  I'll have before and after pictures once I'm done, but right now the house looks like a war zone, because, of course, I'm rearranging and clearing out my son's room as well.  School starts next week and I have purposed that he will begin this, his Junior year, in a peaceful, uncluttered environment, conducive for studying - or, at least, LESS cluttered.  I only wish I had started weeks ago!
Besides "reclaiming my scraproom" which was one of my goals on my summer manifesto list, last night I tried a new recipe (another item on the list), which was fabulous! Definitely a keeper and worthy of sharing.

When we lived in town, as soon as the girls were old enough to work they were both hired at Outback Steakhouse and worked there while going to school.  My son joined them when he turned 16.

A favored Outback meal was Alice Springs Chicken and I came across the recipe yesterday and decided to try it. It was quick, easy and besides being absolutely delicious, all the ingredients were things I most always have on hand - definitely a criteria when choosing new recipes to try. This is what it looked like:

Here's how to make it:


* 4 chicken breasts (I only had tenders on hand)
The recipe says "pound to 1/2 inch thickness".  If they're thick I just slice them in half.
* Lowry's Seasoning Salt
* 6 Slices Bacon (I use turkey bacon)
* 1/4 cup mustard
* 1/3 cup honey
* 2 TBS mayonaise
* 2 tsp dried onion flakes
* 1 cup fresh mushrooms  (I had dried, so I reconstituted a handful)
* 2 cups shredded Colby/Jack cheese  ( I had sliced Swiss and Cheddar so that's what I used)

Honey Mustard
Combine and mix:
mustard, honey, mayonaise and onion flakes in small bowl

Sprinkle and rub chicken with Seasoning Salt.
Cover and refrigerated 30 minutes
Cook bacon until crisp
Sear chicken in bacon grease 3-5 minutes per side until browned
Place chicken in 9 X 13 casserole dish
Spoon honey mustard over each piece of chicken (serve the remainder with the meal)
Layer: Mushrooms, Bacon and Cheese
Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bringing Home the Butter

Recently we brought Buttercup back to our farm.  She had been staying at a friend's farm since March in order to be bred.  You can read more about that story HERE, but the jist of the story is that we brought her to live with other cows so that she could be artificially inseminated when she went into estrus. Unfortunately, there was a bull on the farm.  There was breakout and for the past several months she has shown no sign of going into heat, so we all assume that she has been bred. I believe she will calve sometime in December.

The ride home was uneventful.  I'm sure it was quite a change for her; being taken off lush, green pasture and brought back to our sandy brush land.  One day we hope to have grassy fields, but there's lots of prliminary work to be done. We have to finish clearing and burning brush. We have to plant seed, and most importantly we have to have rain or some type of irrigation sysytem. 

Years ago, when we first bought the farm, in early spring we decided to plant Bahaia grass. There was a rain storm on the radar, so Bob got out the tractor and began to till the ground. We hadn't cleared, but we thought we'd just plant trails of grass through the scrub brush.  Bob tilled, I followed behind with buckets of seed, scattering it in the broken ground left by the rototiller.  Levi and Joel, who were about 9 and 12 years old, walked behind me kicking dirt to cover the seed.  Then we waited for the rain. And we waited. And we waited. Little did we know then that it was the beginning of a major two year drought. Several days later we drug out fire hoses we had, laid out what seemed like miles of PVC pipe, and pumped water up from the creek.  We dragged those hoses all over the woods trying to save our seed. I have NEVER worked so hard in my life - you can't imagine how heavy fire hoses are filled with water, pulling them through the brush without letting them kink.. it was almost impossible!  I will NEVER do that again!
Sadly, after all that work, nothing grew.

   When Buttercup went to stay at Jim's, she became a cow. She learned to graze, she met other cows for the first time and became part of a herd.  When we would visit, she recognized us, and though she would come to say hello, she was becomming more distracted and a bit rough. I was concerned that she would be very difficult to handle when she came home.
   One  of the greatest mistakes we made with our Jersey cow was that we did not halter break her when she was a calf. We bottle fed her and she followed us everywhere.  I guess I just didn't consider that it might be difficult to coax an 800 pound grown cow to go where she didn't want to once she was older.  I won't make that mistake again!  Thankfully, Jim put a halter on her when we went to pick her up.

Once we got to our farm Buttercup immediately reverted back to her former self. She instantly became the pet cow.  It was quite surprising, but I'm so pleased.  The other concern I had when she arrived was that she would not take a liking to her feed.  Before she left to be bred we were feeding her a type of hay very high in protien. She loved it! She and the goats would belly up to the roll and spend all day there.

Unfortunately, I found out that the hay and grain I was feeding her was not good for her. She was too fat and I had come close to ruining her bag, so when she returned I had a roll of horse hay for her instead, and although it was quality hay, I'm certain she remembered the days of lushious Perennial Peanut Hay, which, by the way, I still feed to our goats.
So there she was at feeding time, giving me her big, brown, doe-eyed look

and longingly watching the goats eat the desired hay.

It was pitiful. I'm an enabler, and it was impossible to watch her for long, so I gave her just a taste.

 Two days later we were able to go pick up a drum of the feed she can have.  It's a maintenance feed made up of soy hulls, corn gluten and peanut skins.  I looks like this:


 And it must be pretty good because it seems everyone wants some!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Home Invasion

Two nights ago my daughter woke up around midnight to find a man standing in her bedroom doorway watching her while she slept. His shirt was off and he was holding it in his hand.  She yelled at him and he slowly backed out the door gently closing it behind him.  She immediately called me and then went into the main house - her bedroom is part of a 1300 sq ft addition my husband built on to the back of our three bedroom house in town. My son was home and he went out into the backyard to scout around.  The police were then called but when they came they didn't really give the situation the seriousness and attention I feel it deserved. No fingerprints were taken, even though the intruder had shut the door behind him; only a report was filed. That's all.  Yesterday I spoke to a police officer friend and was given advice.  My son and daughter found a path in the backyard under her bedroom window and the police were re summoned.  This time they were accompanied by a detective who was quite irritated that the first call officers had not taken photographs, had not dusted for fingerprints and had not noticed the path down the side of the house that the stranger had obviously been using.  It was determined that he has been using this trail regularly and has probably been watching her for some time.  I can't describe how that thought makes my stomach churn and my skin crawl.  I want him caught. I don't want my daughter to fear living in her own home. To be afraid to go to sleep at night. To be afraid to be alone. To wonder whether she's being watched, or if he knows where she works. I feel that we have been violated to the utmost degree. Defiled.  And knowing that he is still out there is frightening.
  Here, in our country, we have the freedom to protect and defend ourselves from people who mean us harm.  I would have never thought that this type of situation would touch our lives.  Things like this only happen to other people and are rare and obscure. But now I know that is so untrue.  We live in a world that is growing cold hearted  and more dangerous every day. The news is full of stories of sick and twisted events and the people who commit them, and I have been brutally awakened to the reality that no one is immune from it and them.
  That is why it is so vitally important that we do not lose our second ammendment right to keep and bear arms.
Here's the thing. I hold policemen in the highest of regards, and appreciate what they do everyday, but the police do not prevent crime. Typically they are called to "the scene of the crime."  They investigate and  attempt to catch and arrest the perpetrator, but the crime has already been committed.  I agree that it's important that we secure our fencing, put up motion dectectors and otherwise light up the dark areas around our house, keep our doors locked and now even install alarms. (How dare we have to live this way because an uninvited sicko violated our privacy, and now, forever, our lives!)  On the other hand, what will this do? Without his capture this will only move him on to predate upon another innocent victim.

Second amendment rights are only privileges if not put in use. Being prepared, practiced and safe in the use of firearms requires some money, time and effort. Commitment falls in there as well. As Spiderman once said, "With great power comes great responsibility"
I have a Conceal Carry Permit. I am comfortable with guns and practice, probably not as often as I should, but I never exercise my right.  I know now that that is foolish.  It's better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.

Simply having the right to bear arms can be incentive enough to keep predators at bay. Losing that right could open the floodgates of aggravated crime as it has in other countries. In the early years of World War 2 Japanese Admiral Yamamoto once said that invading the United States would be impossible, or at least very costly. From his experience of attending higher education in the U.S. he became aware that, unlike Japan, American citizens exercised their right to keep firearms in the home, thus multiplying the danger to an invading force.
  A home assailant would probably seek an easier target if he knew that the persons in the home were armed and able to defend themselves. Keeping and maintaining the ability to accurately use firarms is paramount in continuing to have a free and safe society
  I would urge you to become familiar and comfortable with firearms.  A safety course with a knowlagable instructor is essential.

 Thank you for praying for my daughter - for her safety and her peace of mind.

*  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.   1 Peter 5:8

To read more about where to go for gun safety classes see my article HERE

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Third Swarm's A Charm!

Yesterday we went to check out our trailer of bees to determine which beehives needed honey boxes or which small Nuks needed to be placed into larger brood boxes. A Nuk is a small, 5 frame hive that we start new colonies in, and a brood box is a 9 or 10 frame hive where the queen bee lives.

From earlier observations, we knew that the first Nuk on the trailer was slammed full of bees and needed a larger dwelling.  When we opened it up we found plenty of bees, spotted a small queen, but found no eggs or larvae. My initial reaction was that she was a lousy queen, not producing eggs, and that we needed to re-queen this hive.  We placed the five frames into the larger brood box anyway, and I made a note to purchase another queen.

Typically with a good laying queen bee all the cells would be full of eggs and larvae, but these were empty. Note the cotton fields in the background. They are just beginning to flower.

 We continued to open up all ten hives, finding boxes full of capped honey and adding new, empty honey boxes where needed.

 Everything was going fine until we opened up the very last box.  As soon as Bob pulled out the first frame the bees began to boil out and sting him. Time to go. My tendency is to freeze, so there I stood, debating whether or not I would go and put the lid back on the hive.

I was moving slowly toward the hive when I started getting pinged.  When bees are agitated they will not necessarily start stinging right away, but they will begin to bombard you - bouncing off and buzzing you - generally around your face and head. That's the cue to get out of there. Once you're stung, you emit a pheremone scent that attracts more bees to sting. Bees can follow for quite a distance and sometimes don't give up and return to the hive easily. I've learned in those instances it's best to find a tree, lean up against it and "Be the tree." I once had a bee keep me pinned to a tree for 30 minutes. Each time I was sure she had given up and I stepped away from the tree, there she was again pinging me and letting me know who was boss!

As I stood against the tree for just a moment (this bee retreated right away) I happened to look up and noticed THIS...

A swarm of bees in the tree I happened to take refuge in!  Was that random or what?!!

So now it all made sense. This swarm had come from the first hive we opened. They had bugged out sometime that morning before we got there. The queen we saw was little becasue she had just hatched and had not begun to lay eggs. And here was the old queen with most of the bees from the hive and all the honey stores!

Now all we had to do was capture it!  Bob clipped away branches..

 But as he made the very last cutting to clear away unnecessary branches, half of the ball of bees fell to the ground!
Now we had time to kill while we waited for the bees on the ground to fly back up into the tree. What a mess!  An hour or so later we returned and finished the job. In the dark. My husband held the branch while I made the cut and he carried the bees out of the cow pasture to place in the Nuk hive in the back of the  truck.

The way that is done is by taking out three frames from the Nuk box and giving the branch a hard quick jerk, sending the ball of bees falling into the bee box. Then the frames are again added. We try not to leave bees behind so Bob brushed as many stray bees into the box as he could before closing the lid and driving home.  We were totally unprepared to do this and had no brush with us, so he used toilet paper to gently move the bees into the box. He was amazed how heavy they were!

This is the hive this morning.

If you'd like to read more about swarms you can find another article I wrote HERE and HERE and HERE

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Beginnings

Surprisingly I've been diligent, for the past couple of months, to get up at 3:45 in the morning to hurridly gulp down 15 minutes worth of coffee before heading out the door to feed the animals and milk the goats. I am totally chicken motivated, not wanting to be accosted by a barrage of obnoxious free range chickens coming down from their roosts at the break of day. My primary motivation to be up at this ungodly hour was to finish early while it was still cool enough to ride my horse rather than finishing at 11 when it's almost too hot to do anything outside. Now, though, it's primarily fear of chickens that gets me up and out.  After feeding the horses and throwing hay I've determined that it takes about 5 minutes apiece to milk the goats. I milk 13 every morning, and timing is everything. I have to be back in the house at 5:30 to rouse sleeping men and get them off to work and school. Once they leave I finish up throwing hay for three separate billy pens, throw feed for the chickens and clean and fill all water tubs.
Yesterday after chores I called a friend who came to pick up a weaned billy goat he had reserved months ago. He ended up leaving with 4 goats, but he said to me when I went out to greet him, "Ah, you have a new baby?"
That was news to me. Sure enough, not one,

but TWO new baby doelings were born yesterday morning. Darling.
Because he realized that the pen he brought to transport his goats home might not be large enough, and because he lived nearby and I had an errand to run, I offered to drive the largest goat to his farm in our truck - having totally forgotten that Bob had taken the truck to work leaving me with the car.
We went anyway.

I can't help but think that Jeff Foxworthy could have a ball with this shot!
We stayed and visited for a bit, watching the goats acclimate to their new surroundings, sipping a glass of homemade grape juice - very nice.

On our way back home I ran into my friend Mary and her husband at the park. They were taking their first test drive with their miniature donkey.

Mary has been working with her donkey for weeks training it to drive and now, here they were, having a blast!
Next stop - the feed store.

I'm concerned that the drought in the Midwest and the devastation to the corn crop is going to cause a substantial rise in the price of livestock feed. Right now the horse, chicken and cattle feed averages about $10. per bag. We use approximately 10 bags per week. Another reason to get busy clearing brush and planting grasses and grains!

Back home again to pop my goat milk soap out of the molds.

I can't tell you how exciting it is to be making soap! It's a lesson in patience, however, because now I have to wait 4 weeks for it to cure.

The rest of the day was just normal, everyday stuff: sweeping up dog hair, folding loads of laundry overflowing on the chair, making cheese, washing dishes...

Homestead Life is an adventure. Full of exciting, incredible experiences, and it can appear idealistic if I were to blog exclusively about the joys of farm life. But so that there's no misunderstanding, homestead life is hard work and filled with unpleasantries as well.
For example, along with the wonder and joy of newborn kids, this afternoon, because Mama Lion chose not to tidy up her children, with warm water and towel in hand I wiped the nasty butts and cleaned the caked on yuck off the babies. Then I buried an unearthed, decomposing unmentionable with a long tail that the dogs had discovered. GAG!
It's not always butterflies and roses!