Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunflower Seeds for the Hens

In my quest to become more self sustainable, feeding my hens is an area I'd like to improve on instead of relying on bagged feed. Mammoth sunflowers are something that I grow every year and then leave the heads for the wild birds. While I do like the wild birds, my hens were first in line this year to receive the sunflower bounty.

Sunflowers drying on the nesting rack.
The heads were collected and tied together in bunches to be dried in the hen house. I hung them from the ceiling and on the tiered rack above. The metal rack is one I picked up a tag sale a few years back for $1. It's filled with hay and the hens use it instead of the laying boxes - it's fancier - that's why they like it better.

The sunflower harvest was impressive this year. I thought they'd last for quite a while to have a daily treat. Plans for next year are to double the amount of sunflowers.

Rosie-Posie pecking the seeds off the ground.

Most mornings, I scrape the seeds out of a sunflower head or two on to the ground and let the girls scratch them out of the hay.

Rosie-Posie and Butternut.

Little did I know, someone was helping herself! This little lady below has a bad leg after surviving being attached by dogs last winter. She limps around most of the time. Who knew she could still jump so high? So much for the sunflowers lasting the winter!

Rosie-Posie helping herself.
Enjoy the day-

This post shared at Barn Hop #83, Clever Chicks #4., Tilly's Nest, Frugal Days/Sustainable Ways, and Backyard Farming Connection.

My October Tale of Terror

My family does not participate in what seems like the rest of the U.S. does on October 31st. It's hard to escape, but it's a our choice. However, I love fall. Fall colors, gourds, pumpkins, apple pie, everything that screams fall. When October comes around, all those thoughts fill my head. All those thoughts of autumn and the harvest, but as of the last few years, I have moments that absolute terror fills my heart in this otherwise lovely month. A terror that I've shared with few people, because of my guilt and shame. Here is my story with hopes that the moms and dads out there hear this horrific tale of terror and take head.....
My daughter is now a teenager, but just five years ago, she was still a little girl. During this very month....we drove by a small family owned farm in the middle of a beautiful autumn day. The front lawn was filled with pumpkins, squash, gourds, cornstalks and ornamental grasses of all colors and sizes. My car is programmed to stop at such places.

Daughter and I started making plans of centerpieces, displays, and art projects to use all these beautiful things in.

Let me paint the picture even more

  • Family owned retail farm.
  • The one and only employee is at the cash register inside a small building.
  • Very close to the road.
  • My car and one other in the parking lot.
  • Risers (planks on concrete blocks) displaying all the fruits of the season tiered as high as my head in long narrow aisles.
  • Long narrow aisles of these tiered planks and you can't see what's on the other side of them. Get the picture?

Let me paint the personality

  • Daughter talks non-stop (still). I've always known where she is and have never been afraid to let her go more than arms length because I can hear her.
  • She is my 'fetcher' in the stores, go get it and she does.
  • She is pretty.
  • If she stops talking or singing or humming, even when she is alone in a room, something is wrong. This is how she's given herself away her whole life.

I am in one of the aisles, picking out the big gourds and pumpkins. I send daughter out of the aisle, around the backside to fill a shopping basket with gourds - 10 for $1! She's on it! We're chatting back and forth...well, mainly she was chatting about 'this' and 'that' and 'remember that time?', and 'why did God make spiders?'...etc, etc...I am preoccupied with visions of orange and yellow pumpkins dancing in my head.

Minutes? Seconds? A half second? I realize there is NO sound. I call her name. No answer. I briskly walk to the end of the aisle and yell her name again. No answer. I am concerned and walk a few feet through the displays and spot her very far from her designated task. I am annoyed. Hands on hips, "what are you doing?" Her eyes dart to a man and a woman nearby, that only in hindsight had the look of deer in headlights. They quickly leave and get in their car, without pumpkins. At the moment though, I am just annoyed because Daughter did not answer me when I called her.

We finish our shopping, pay the cashier, and get in the car. The car is unusually silent and the mood is different. We are almost home. She is in the backseat, still too small to legally ride in the passenger seat. I glare at her in the rear view mirror. I ask 'why she didn't answer me when I called her?' and 'what was she doing anyway?' I finally notice the expression is not of the child that I know. "mommy, those people were trying to get me, and were making me walk further and further away". Can you HEAR the tires come to a screeching halt?!! Can you HEAR my heart pounding through my chest?!!

My head goes to instant mommy replay: they were corralling her toward the back of the building where there was no retail space, not letting her get back to me. I now realize I had heard the voice of the old farmer that owns the farm coming in from the field. He yelled "can I help you folks" in the direction of the two strangers. I realize it was his voice that was the voice that made me aware that all was silent the moment before. The couple had a look of deer in headlights because they were caught in the act of TRYING TO STEAL my daughter!

What on earth do I do now?
Twenty minutes or more had passed. The people are long gone. Do I call the police just to tell the story? Please don't give me advice now. I know what I should have done. I have replayed this over and over in my head, and do so yearly. I was in shock. Woulda, coulda, shoulda....

We get home. I am thankful to God for this day. I am thankful that nothing truly bad happened. I am thankful for the lesson. I am thankful for the opportunity to talk to my daughter about what to do if she ever found herself in a situation like that again - realize these conversations are different at different stages of their childhood.

My husband comes home. I am still shaken at the thought of losing my only child. I recant the story to him, but got an unexpected reaction....he is FURIOUS! Furious with me. Oh, it was not a good night. I felt horrible.

Here are my lessons to pass on to other parents

  • We live in very scary times.
  • This could happen to anyone, anytime of day.
  • Be a momma bear, no matter where you are even to the point of embarassing yourself.
  • Make eye contact with strangers around you. Let them know that you know they're there.
  • Be aware, even when you think your children are 'big enough' to let the leash out a little further.
  • Children sometimes forget to scream in times of stress EVEN though you may have taught them about 'stranger danger' and what to do. 
  • Older children are also afraid to cause a scene or heaven forbid, embarrass themselves or others.

My guilt of how I handled this situation has kept me from telling this story until only recently. Let this story work for good. Pass it on to someone you think it could help. My story has a happy ending, let's prevent others from truly having horror stories of their own to tell.

This post shared at Raising Homemakers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Free Movie Until 10/17/12: Genetic Roulette

Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so.
Genesis 1:11

Whether or not you agree with genetic engineered foods or not, this is a move you should see. Click here for free viewing until October 17th, 2012. Kim, at Jabez Farm alerted me today about this movie, here's what she has to say about it. Click here and here for two other reviews, but really - just check it out and decide for yourself.

Speaking of deciding for yourself, the Governor of Connecticut has already decided for the state of CT. We don't need to know.

Here is the movie trailer:

Agree or disagree, you're still part of a huge scientific experiment that seems inescapable, especially if you're a meat eater. Be informed. Pass it on.... case you missed the above link for the full movie HERE it is.

This post shared at Barn Hop #83

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From The Garden - October 9, 2012

There is finally that familiar chill of autumn in the air around here. I actually welcome it and the opportunity to clean up the garden and get it ready for next year.
Still coming in from the garden...ground cherries! Very abundant right now.
All one needs to do is bend over and scoop them up. Ground cherries have a slightly sweet pineapple flavor to them. Great in salads. Especially great in Ground Cherry Cake, if you'd like my recipe, click here.

Last week I dried a bunch of them in the dehydrator. Simply cut down the center and dried cut side up for about 12 hours, then air sealed in a mason jar. They'll be used for scones, cookies and muffins in place of raisins.
These are the last ripe cherry tomatoes. There are a bunch of green ones that I plan on picking later today to lacto-ferment them.

Below are the last of the regular tomatoes. Both the tomatoes and cherry tomatoes were dehydrated and turned into sun-dried tomatoes.
Dried, but not to the crisp point, still a little sticky. Herbs, salt and garlic were mixed in a jar with olive oil. Add tomatoes, top with more olive oil and shake. These will be a great addition to salads this winter.

Sun-dried tomatoes.
I picked up a couple of flats of plum tomatoes from my farmer and dehydrated them as well. I sliced them real thin and dried them very well.
Then they were air sealed in mason jars. We'll use these on pizzas and flat bread or pulverize them for use in salad dressings. I ended up with four quarts in all.
Also from my garden is kale. Lots of kale! I pretty much eat kale every day. Read here about my latest misadventures with kale.
Enjoy the day-

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ground Cherry Cake

If you've ever planted Ground Cherries before, you know that you only have to sow them yourself once. For the rest of your life. They just keep coming back. I think that's a good thing though, I love them and have found several uses for them other than just eating them straight from the garden. So far, we've (when I say we - I mean me) made ground cherry jam, dried ground cherries for baking, and my most favorite: Ground Cherry Cake.

The best part of growing ground cherries is that there's no picking involved. You just scoop the little yellow husks off the ground - hence the name.

See the color of the husks? Not ready. They know when they're ready, let them fall.
 They keep very well in a cool spot as long as you don't open the husks. I've read that they can be stored as long as three months, but I haven't tested that yet because they're just too yummy.


Ground Cherry Cake is sort of like an upside-down pineapple cake, only better! It's super moist and not sickeningly sweet!

Here is my recipe for Ground Cherry Cake:

1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 c coconut sugar
1/4 c agave
1/4 c pineapple juice
1/2 c milk
1 egg
1 1/2 c white spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Enough ground cherries to cover the bottom of a 9" cake pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Melt 1/2 stick of butter over low to medium heat. Add the coconut sugar and stir continuously while it bubbles for 2-3 minutes; making a caramel sauce.
Pour caramel into bottom of an ungreased 9" pan. Arrange ground cherries in a single layer completely covering the caramel layer.
Combine milk, agave, and pineapple juice. Set aside.
Beat remaining stick of (softened) butter in mixing bowl. Add egg and beat well. Add the flour and milk mixture, alternating, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Pour over ground cherries in cake pan.
Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake cake for 30-35 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Once done, let rest for 10 minutes. Invert cake pan onto cake plate and let alone for 20 minutes or so. Carefully remove cake pan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beneficial Insect or Just Another Pest?

Kale is my favorite cool weather crop. We grow Red Winter Kale and Winterbor Kale and have had an abundance of both beginning in January of this year! I can't believe I still come across people who have never eaten it. I brought a big bowl of kale sauteed in mojo de ajo to a party (I'm that kind of party girl, ahem, very popular), and the kids loved it as well as the adults. The bowl was practically licked clean. Here I thought I'd be bringing home leftovers for lunch the next day...
However, those darn cabbage moth caterpillars are such a nuisance to my brassicas. No wonder my seventy-something neighbor down the street is always seen with a butterfly net in his hands during the summer. At first I thought it a little odd, but now I think he may be on to something -kill the moths-, no moths/no caterpillars. Hmmmm.
Caterpillars took over the crop in the back garden, and I was content to let them do so because they were ignoring the more delicious looking crop in another garden. Here I am thinking all is well, we can share, there will still be plenty of kale once the weather turns cool and sweetens it up...but nooooo-ohhh.
Now, it's personal. Every single plant is covered in caterpillars! I've got these and these. Variety is usually nice. I read an online article that says the problem with an infestation like this is because I have an imbalance of garden insect pests and beneficial insects. Yes. Exactly. Noted.
I've intentionally planted things to attract killer beneficial bugs, and have witnessed their presence just this year. Eleven years on this property, by the way. We've had quite a few Assassin Bugs, Lady Bugs, and although I haven't seen them, Praying Mantis egg sacs in several spots. But who do I hire to help me with these pains in the bum caterpillars?
Daughter and I caught this little guy in the act while I was whining about all the caterpillars. Who is that hero? He had a piercing-like straw inserted into the caterpillar, who, by the way, was limp and lifeless. Note that I'm not feeling bad about this.
He was a little shy about getting his photo taken during meal time and kept moving to the underside of the leaf, extending his straw all the more. So, who is he? And, how can I get more? I've tried to ID this bug with no resembles the Green Stinkbug Nymph and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. No where can I find that it eats insects as well as leaves of plants. Thoughts?
He was a lone only guy trying to get the job done, and it's a bigger job than he can handle. So I resumed to my little 'hobby' of taking care of business. If anyone had told me ten years ago that I'd spend a good portion of my 'free' time squishing bugs with my bare fingers, I'd a told them they were crazy.
Daughter volunteered to help me. She thinks it's fun. That's sound disturbing to me on some level. No matter. Four hands are better than two.
I still use the skeleton-like leaves in my morning juice! If I thought I could pickle and can the little pest buggers, I'd do that they taste just like kale...hmmm.
Enjoy the day-
This post is shared at Blog Hop #82 and Backyard Farming Connection.