Monday, May 30, 2011

Busy, busy, busy...

Despite my best intentions, I seem to keep neglecting this blog. Oh well, I figure most of you reading probably have a lot of homesteading related things keeping them busy these days too, so you'll understand.
Things have been really busy here on the little homestead. I've finally managed to get some seedlings started indoors (various peppers & tomatoes which its probably too late for but I'm going to try, lavender & 3 types of cucumber). I planted 10 rows worth of seeds in the garden (lettuce variety, romaine, arugula, spinach, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, radish, three types of squash, and carrots). Still lots of planting ahead, but it feels good to at least (finally) start. The garden area isn't completely fenced yet though, so I opted to cover my rows with agribon fabric to protect the seeds from our curious chickens as well as those pesky rabbits, quail, and wild birds that love to go investigate everytime one of us has been working in the garden. In other planting news, the bare root fruit trees we planted a few months ago are doing great, all have or are blossoming, so we're already planning to purchase a lot more next year. The large almond trees are looking beautiful, so I'm hoping we can manage to get a good harvest out of them (before the squirls get them all). Also I'm starting to see some green leaves popping up on some of the near death strawberry plants we received from a friend (I've been spoiling them with lots of whey leftover from my cheese making which is supposed to be a great fertilizer).
In other news, we purchased some more laying hens from a family that is moving to help replace those that were killed by the dogs (we had 2 more just completely vanish after the dog incident). The freedom ranger chicks are growing, though not at the rate of some stats I've seen reported by others (most likely because the organic feed we are using is soy free). Despite their "slower" (still faster than typical chicks) rate of growth, a few of us that ordered chicks together have had one or two develop leg issues...very dissapointing since we were hoping to avoid that by not raising cornish cross, but we actually think its related to the first feed we were all using which most likely was deficient in an area or two. Regardless, I think most of us have decided that we'll stick to dual purpose breeds from now on...I can see a lot of advantages with that method of meat production since you can breed them youself with your own stock (including experimenting with cross breeding), keeping hens for eggs & cockerels for meat, butchering on a more relaxed timetable according to your needs, rather than having to process huge numbers at once & take up so much freezer space. Another advantage is having chicks raised by mother hens rather than having all the work (and smell) of raising them in brooders. Despite the fact that I'm already feeling "chicked out", I picked up 8 turkeys (I must say turkeys take stink to the next level!) the other day (4 royal palm, 1 blue slate, 3 bronze breasted)...I'd really like to end up with a breeding pair of the royal palm, so we'll see. Thankfully we moved all those babies outside to a coop with a light & covered run attached which has helped improve my attitude & work load in regards to them. The last of the chicks I ordered arrived & are in the garage, but since its only 10 they are much easier keepers!
Still trying to manage all the milk our goats have been providing (at least 14 gallons/week!). I tried adding fresh chopped cilantro & diced (pickled) jalapenos to the farmer's cheese previously posted about. It tastes great & is a favorite here now (even among the kids!). I also made my first attempt at mozzarella earlier this week & it was a success which I'm thrilled about since that's one of the cheeses we buy regularly, and its a cheese that I can freeze. I've made it a couple times since. After consulting with some other goat owners who make yogurt, I decided to order a yogurt maker & am anxious for its arrival since we eat a lot of yogurt around here. Made my first batch yesterday & it tastes good, just not as think as I'd like so I'll be working on that a bit. I've also had my eye on the ice cream maker attachment for my kitchen aid the idea of not having to deal with ice, rock salt, an additional appliance, etc...and while we don't generally keep ice cream on hand, its a treat we indulge in here & there, so what could be better than homemade? Thankfully, my mom generously ordered that for me as a thank you for dog sitting during their recent nearly month long vacation...can't wait to try it out!
In other news, I'd been looking for a couple female kittens and was hoping to find some with a bit of siamese in them. I stumbled upon an add in a nearby city for two free female purebred seal point siamese, what luck! Picked them up just over a week ago & they are adorable as you can see...though I must admit that I'm already tiring of the litter box duties & the naughty scratching issues so I'm looking forward to getting their shots & spaying done so they can be moved out to the shop & have access to the outdoors where I'm hoping they'll take to the job of gopher & mice catcher because we could really use some help in those areas!
You know, there have been times when I start to feel a bit disappointed that we haven't gotten to this or that (things we'd planned to have accomplished around the little homestead by now), but after planting today I paused for a moment to drink some fresh brewed ice tea and reflected on the changes that have happened around here since purchasing the house last August, then moving in finally in October. Sure our list of things to do & learn is neverending, but we're making progress and I gotta say, it feels good! And since we have no plans to go anywhere, we've got lots of time to keep checking off that list...

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