Saying good bye to a good friend is hard.

IMG_0814

A week ago we said good bye to a very good friend, a dog who has been with us for 16 years. We were so lucky to have her that long. Does that make it any easier to say good bye? Barely, although it should. We know though that this little girl was struggling at the end and so we gave her the peaceful ending she deserved. The Vet was wonderful, we never even went in the clinic. There is a pretty spot on a river right behind the clinic, and it truly was a peaceful painless end. Well, painless for her. We still are trying to find our center in a house that feels oddly off balanced without her presence.

IMG_0750

This is our good old girl in her favorite pose, surveying the area in what we called her Princess of the Farm pose.

We miss her.

IMG_0774

Then strange things happen, like a surprise calf, and a reminder of endings and beginnings.

IMG_0194

The garden is growing in leaps and bounds. The San Marzano tomatoes I have been lusting for are still green but are getting to be a nice size, and there is NO possible way, short of a tornado taking them out, that I could run out of tomatoes, salsa, tomato sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce etc. this year, it’s just won’t be possible with over 20 tomato plants!

IMG_0198

Peppers are coming in nicely, all three varieties.

IMG_0196

My lovely eggplant.

IMG_0191

The chickens are getting so much bigger the last few weeks. Coop number three is almost done, at which point we will break up this group of 26 birds. The 8 hens will move to another coop and the roos will stay in this hoop tractor with an attached coop, however, the remaining roos days are numbered. These Delawares are supposed to be harvested in 12 weeks, I am going to let them go to 14 weeks which puts us at the last weekend in July. Last time, which was our first time butchering, it took us 6 hours to do 6 birds. That was from start to finish or from catch to clean up. This time I know it will go considerably faster but processing 20 birds will be quite the marathon, likely a two day marathon. The reward? We will eat only our chicken this year. We will know it was treated properly for all it’s life, and that we will be eating chicken that ate our grass, organic feed, garden scraps and bits of pig liver (from last years pigs) in the hardest part of winter. In October when our new hens are laying our older 4 hens will become stewing birds and so that adds 4 more birds for a total of 24 chickens in the freezer this year. Half of a chicken feeds the two of us for dinner and that makes 48 dinners for the two of us. That is almost a chicken dinner a week, but when I add in the broth it will make, that becomes the base for many more meals. This Fall we will bring our first steer and one of our hogs to the locker. (Two of the hogs are sold one will be ours, of which we will sell some of by the cut.)

We are reaching a new level of self sufficiency.

IMG_0812

Nice to have a neighbor that says, I can’t possibly pick all those berries, come and get ’em! Beautiful and delicious.

IMG_0816

Pretty nice late night snack?

Yogurt is off the grocery list!

IMG_0186

Heating the milk to make…

IMG_0185

Yogurt!

So I am a bit afraid of other ways of making yogurt. I know that you can make it in a Crockpot, but most places I have read that people who do this have the kind of Crockpot that has a digital temperature readout, and mine has low and high. Not being brave enough to tackle the unknown, I purchased this yogurt maker on Craigslist. It was $20 bucks, and I offered $12 and  a bag of my Granola from my really granola business. She accepted the deal and the trade was made.

I wondered, with an excellent local yogurt maker in town here, why was I even trying this? So then I “mathed it out”, and yep numbers win. This yogurt costs 18 cents a cup vs. 95 cents -$1.25 at the store. Even with our wonderful local yogurt in town, their yogurt still had a couple more ingredients then mine, which is MILK, plus 2T of starter yogurt which I now have! So I have yogurt that costs almost nothing, and takes little effort to make, I now have my own “starter” for it, and my yogurt is made simply of milk, period. Additionally I am building up a supply of fruit for yogurt from now till next summer when fruit comes in again. We will have raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb-strawberry sauce, apple cinnamon and peaches to stir into our yogurt.  All in all I would say a success story. If I ever replace my crockpot I may try the other method.

The gardens are growing like crazy, from all the rainstorms we have had, both the garden variety storms and some wickedly bad storms for which we were luckier than many. We are harvesting Kale, Collards, lettuces, and radishes so far. The green beans will be coming in soon, and I’ve seen a tiny pepper, and even an eggplant, although quite small yet. The picture below shows what I brought in yesterday. Our current hens are really slowing down in production, come Fall these will be stewing birds and we will have 6 new hens coming into laying in the at that time. We may have timed it just right!

IMG_0738

I have calculated the days and the 26 birds we brought here on May 1 will officially be 12 weeks on July 21st! These birds have kept us busy!

 

IMG_0723

Hubby was busy building this “Hoop Coop”, and we’ve both been busy moving birds around. These birds live in a coop in the old run at night but are in the hoop coop during the day. Hmmm if you think about that long enough  you may wonder…how do they get from the old coop and run to the hoop coop? By dog crate transfer! The first time we did this the birds thought we were crazy and completely balked at the idea, but now when we bring the crate to the old coop to load them up they cue up like they are waiting for the Metro. Then we carry the crate to the coop hoop and open the door and they all fly into the hoop coop. Then at night we do the reverse. It will be nice when the birds are in the freezer and we can stop doing this. Next year there will be a mobile coop to go with the hoop, so there will be no more transferring of birds. We may let them go till about the 28th, to give them one more week to fatten up. Hubby is going on a “mancation” shortly after with the brother boys and I sure don’t want to be doing chicken transfers on my own! (oh and the traffic cone [a.k.a. killing cone], is on top of their water because, well,  they perch on it otherwise which results in poopy water, yuk!

Thinking about meat for the year:

We got 18 males for butchering and 8 hens, thinking that if we lost any hens we wanted to still have enough layers, but since all 8 hens made it, I think we will butcher 2 of those as well, so we will have 20 birds in the freezer which with the two of us means 40 dinners. That is almost a chicken a week. I will also get 2-3 locally raised turkeys from the Co-op in November, and then with taking our Steer in early fall to the locker and the hogs in November, we should be all set to purchase NO meat at a store this year (other than said local turkeys at the Co-op).

We will have plenty of veggies in the freezer this year, but fruit for the year is the harder one in the midwest with our short growing season, and cold winters. But we will have plenty in the form of:

Frozen: strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, peaches, (our cherry tree was very challenged over the cold winter) maybe local blueberries

Fresh: wild apples in our neighbors walk in cooler

Prepared: strawberry rhubarb sauce, applesauce, peach sauce,

Dried: apples and peaches

So all this is to say, we are well on our way to another year of delicious food for which we either raised, grew or bartered to get.

A few other farm pics…

IMG_0736

Patiently waiting for a new flush of Shiitakes. Well at least I am trying to be patient!

IMG_0727

Putting in a new pasture for the pigs. Yea, I’m learning to make fence:)

IMG_0725

While I did this Shadow kept a close eye on me, that is if she can see thru her pretty, pretty bangs!