Saturday, March 26, 2011

Are you feeling generous?

Aren't these babies adorable?   Well, they are destined for the meat market.  They were bred by my friend
Lisa  who breeds French and Satin Angora rabbits, and BFL Sheep.   She shows very successfully, but she also has a booth in a Farmer's Market in Marietta, OH where she sells lamb and rabbit meat. And that's where these guys are headed.

I don't need any more rabbits, but I'm thinking about "rescuing" one from the butcher.   The dam of these babies comes from parents that were each 1/2 French Angora, and 1/2 New Zealand.  The sire is a purebred, registered (Fawn) French Angora.  The babies are then 3/4 FA. For the un-initiated, they are Pearl in color - color on extremities with a creamy white body.   In spite of the New Zealand (fur) breed behind them, these guys have wool - which can be harvested for spinning!  There are 2 bucks and a doe.  Lisa will sell them for $25 each.   (If I do this, I've got  dibbs on the doe)    I would have to drive to Ohio for pick-up, so since I would be making the drive anyway, does anyone else want one? 

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's a start!

My 2011 garden is officially started.  Saturday and Sunday were unseasonably warm and lovely, so out came the trowels and seeds, and in went the beginnings of the garden.  I planted strawberries (with companion plant Borage), 2 kinds of lettuce, 2 kinds of radishes, shallots and chard in containers.  I have rainbow chard, and found I don't like to use the red, because it bleeds!  Everything I put it in turns out pink.  So I am using last year's seed in a container, then will transplant the white and yellow ones to the garden. I might still grow out the red ones and give them to the livestock.

I also planted garlic.  It is supposed to be planted in the fall, but we didn't really have a fall last year. It was hot, bone-dry and the soil like a rock, so I'll try some spring plantings and see what I get.  No need to buy anything special.  I found some huge heads of garlic at the grocery, and pulled off the biggest dozen cloves to plant.  Then I peeled the remaining cloves, ran them through my mini-chopper with some olive oil, froze them on a non-stick sheet in teaspoon sized lumps, then stored them in freezer, (double) zip-lock bagged.  Minced garlic at the ready that I won't have to chop at a moment's notice.  Only trouble is, now my kitchen reeks of garlic. 

Today and tomorrow are supposed to be just as warm as the weekend, so if it doesn't rain, I'll put some more cool-weather things in after work.   'Still don't have the potatoes in. I have dumped the soil out, but I need to scrub and bleach the container they were in last year before I plant them.   

I've got buds on my blueberry plant!  I wondered if it would over-winter, and it seems to have made it!

I need to get a quick pen made so I can put Abigail out in the garden to 'work it over' before I plant there.  Don't yell, but I think I can easily handle at least one more chicken.  I have one whole large cage/coop that I'm not even using.  I talked to a breeder about a bantam Cochin pullet (splash color) over the weekend.  She's got 5 or 6, anyone else want one?   They aren't the best layers, but they are calm and tolerate cooping well.  If I ever wanted to hatch out some eggs - I wouldn't need a brooder, because they supposedly go broody a LOT!   What I really wanted was blue, but they seem to be hard to come by.  The breeders don't want to let those go.  (I don't know if this photo is even the hatch the breeder is selling, but it is of her birds) 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Healthy Homemade

Does anyone else here save glass jars?  That I do should be no surprise to anyone - I'm such a packrat.  Our recycling plant takes glass, but I found out when working with them through our recycling program at my job that they do not recycle glass themselves - 'must ship it off somewhere.   Glass is heavy and breakable, but it is also toxin free, impermeable to gases, liquids and odors, and is perhaps the most recyclable material, since it can be melted and remade indefinitely without degrading.

Anyway, I save small jars - especially those with interesting shapes - to store dried herbs.   Larger ones hold dried things like veggies and fruit from my dehydrator, beans and pasta.   My next project for small jars is this:

Homemade Deodorant

(Makes one small canning jar - just over 1/2 cup)

1/4 C. baking soda
1/4 C. cornstarch or arrowroot
5 - 6 T. coconut oil
Tea Tree Oil (optional)

I stole got this from the  Homestead Revival  blog, who in turn got it from someone else.  The ingredients are easy to obtain, and she had many testimonials from women who have been using it for a long time and like it. (note this is a deodorant, not anti-perspirant)

I like to make things when I can, rather than buy them. In this case, I want to use an alternative to the aluminum-based products from the store, and of course, save money.

- I posted earlier about my home-made laundry detergent that I have used for about 2 years now and like.  I keep a small amount of store-bought product on hand to use if something is very delicate or needs stain treatment.  I have also learned to use my Dawn diswashing detergent for greasy food spots as a pre-treat on clothes.  Not home-made, but it eliminates having to buy a second product to pre-treat.

 - I use white vinegar  - diluted 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water as a fabric softener - and see absolutely no reason to ever go back to the commercial softener.  It works great, even on towels, and I like the fact that it removes any soap residue from the clothes.

 - Here is a homemade glass cleaner I bought the stuff to try: 
1/2 cup ammonia
2 cups rubbing alcohol
1 tsp of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid
3/4 gallon of water

There are tons of  'recipes' for homemade household cleaners and other things on the internet. Some better than others, but many worth a try!   

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Planting Potatoes

So, should I plant my potatoes on St. Patrick's Day (traditional) or 'by the dark of the moon' (folklore), or just whenever I get the chance?   Today is supposed to be nice and nearly 70 degrees by the time I get off work, so it would be a good time to work outside.  The next new moon is not until April 3. 

I'm going to try, try again this year, even though I didn't get a single potato last year.   I planted in containers, and didn't think it would matter that I planted tomatoes and potatoes next to each other.  It did.  The potatoes and the tomato plant nearest them both succumbed to late blight.   I'm still putting my potatoes in a container, with new soil, and nowhere near the tomatoes, and we'll see how it goes.   I'm planting Red Norland for new potatoes and Kennebunk for whites.   Lettuce and radishes could also go in any time now.

Abigail is still not laying, so I turned her over a few nights ago to check her vent, pubic bones and abdomen, and she is nowhere near laying!   I think she's a young bird!?!  Being a novice, I only had books to go by, and one told about how pigment in legs, beak and eye rims bleach out as they age and lay their eggs.  Hers had and still have pigment.  Her legs are rough (a sign of age), but she' s a feather legged breed, so it's hard to tell.   She's eating a lot more, so maybe she's (gradually) working up to something.  She seems to like standing on my forearm like a perch (which she never uses), so I might try to teach her "step up" like a parrot.  It's worth a shot - and if successful would make getting her out of her coop easier. 'Notice how I said that as though it's a perfectly sane reasonable thing to do?

The French Angoras, on the other hand, are having no trouble growing out coats and getting ready for the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival   I, on the other hand, need to hop to it if I plan to have samples and some yarn for the UARC booth!   I'll be in the livestock area this year.  be sure to stop by and see us! 

That's all for now from Wren Cottage .....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What a Day!

Yesterday I joined a group of folks from the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival  to represent our upcoming event at the Lexington Celtic Festival and St. Patrick's parade.   As soon as we were set up we were flooded with people, to see the sheep and watch us spin.  People are fascinated with spinning, and both adults and kids will ask all sorts of questions.  Well, the watching part didn't last long at all, because kids today aren't shy.  "Can I try it?"  I wasn't about to say no, because these are the spinners of the future!!!  I let one kid have my seat, showed them how it's done, then looked to my right, and there was a line of kids waiting to learn!!  Who's going to dampen that kind of enthusiasm, but the line never seemed to end, and after an hour or two, was I ever tired! 

Blessedly, the parade started, and I was able to take a break to watch it. 

people gathering to watch the parade

I had my camera, but I forgot to start taking pictures until the parade was well underway.   I missed the getting a shot of the Grand Marshall in full coaching attire atop a gorgeous coach pulled by two Hanoverian horses. 

It was fun, very small-town, (one of the things I like so much about living in Lexington, a big city with a small-town feel)  with dressed up kids on on bikes, antique cars,  some local businesses, the Knights of Columbus - it really took me back to parades in my own small hometown. 

I thought about taking one or two of my bunnies, but decided against it, and I'm glad I did.   Between the bagpipes, drum and pipe bands, many groups of Irish dancers, some 'Celtic Women' wannabes (who were actually very good) and a rockin' Irish band, it was very LOUD.

I taught spinning to some more kids after the parade, but not as many.  We had several Irish folk stop by.  One fella from County Down said he had "sheared lots o' sheep" but never knew "what they bloody did with the stuff."  We have lots of Irish people in the area.  Many come to work on the horse farms.   Once they finish their University degree, they come to do their internships here before going back to manage horse operations at home. 

It was easy to get caught up in the festivities.  At one point Sara took her biggest sheep  - Ewen McTeagle - across the street and straight in to McCarthy's bar.  Hysterical.  Masses of cell phones were whipped out to take pictures, but they didn't even get a free beer for it!   When hunger called me, I had some really good fish and chips (with malt vinegar, of course) washed down with a Guinness.   Those who know me will be surprised, because they know I really don't like beer - but this was different.

It was a long day, and though the party was still going strong, we loaded up after dark, and everyone was bushed - both people and animals.  We handed out lots and lots of advertisement cards for the Festival, and overall it was a good day. 

By the end of the day, eveyone was tired, including Miss Iris and Keebler 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Have I gone too far?

Yesterday I went to Tractor Supply to pick up rabbit feed.   These are 'chick days' at Tractor Supply, but the ones they got in last week were gone already, so there weren't any to watch and enjoy.  I mean it! Really!  I would have just looked!  While I was in that section, I saw a bag of  "freeze-dried mealworms."  They were cheap, so I picked up a bag to have as treats for Abigail.    Treats for the chicken.......too much?   

Actually, it's more like a bribe, since she hasn't started laying again yet.   I want to get her (and the bunnies, one at a time of course) outside in a pen if we have a nice day, but the grass isn't growing all that much yet in the backyard, and after two days of heavy rain this week, it could turn into a mud pit in a snap, so we're all staying off it. I think I'll throw down some grass seed this afternoon to help things along a little. 

Those mealworms are pretty gross. They aren't all shriveled up, but look exactly like the worms in the picture. I had read chickens love mealworms, but I don't know where they sell fish bait around here.  
Freeze-dried will have to do.  At least they're a little less disgusting.  I couldn't tell if Abigail liked them or not. I took her out of her coop last night and she was very content to sit in my lap and watch TV.  OK, maybe that's the point at which I went too far!  

While I was out, I bought a few more packs of seeds - yellow squash, zucchini (which I plan to grow on a trellis), Cilantro, regular curled Parsley, and lemon cucumber.   I would need a garden the size of a football field to grow everything I have seeds for.   Often I only grow one plant, though.  I haven't had the greatest success growing seeds either ( see  Boulderneigh  post for today) except those that go straight into pots or the ground.  If I could get a handle on growing healthy starts, it crossed my mind to put up a sign out front with the seedlings - maybe for fifty cents or a dollar.  If anyone paid any attention, I might get to know some of my neighbors better, but more importantly, encourage others in the neighborhood to garden too!