Sunday, July 31, 2011

Foraging

I don’t mean dumpster diving. Though some people do that and I suppose that’s a form of foraging. I am talking today about going out into the wild and sometimes not so wild places and finding food. This is an important skill that is lost by most and it takes practice. There are many things I can not identify after years of roaming forest and dell. I still have the hardest time with watercress and I will not go near mushrooms. I am looking for an old mushroom hunter to take me out, but so far no luck.

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My foraging forte, per se, is berries. I can identify certain greens, root vegetables, and nuts, but berries are my favorite. We are surrounded by berries on the island and almost no one picks them. Strawberries, blueberries, shadberries, huckleberries, raspberries, blackberries, beach plums, and grapes. There are also rosehips. Beautiful big red rosa rugosa rosehips that are packed with vitamin C. I haven’t quite mastered utilizing them yet. It’s still a work in progress.

Yesterday it was raspberries. I have a couple of raspberry spots that are on public land. We have a lot of conservation land here that have trails and scenic vistas and such. Now hundreds of people walk by these a week. I think there are maybe two others that pick them. I’ve never seen them, but I know they’ve been there. There are unwritten rules to foraging. Only take what you need and don’t tell where the spots are. It’s like fight club. Nobody talks about it. But, you know it’s there. (ok random I know)

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These are maybe two feet off the trail. They can be clearly seen. Most people just pass them by. P1000765 (3)If you would like to find raspberries near your home here’s what to look for. In June there are beautiful purple flowers. Raspberries have a brighter green leaf than blackberries it almost glows and a different growing structure.  Where blackberries grow along the stalk, raspberries grow in clusters on the ends. There is also something called a dewberry that has a similar growing pattern. They are more of an orange color and are completely edible as well. I have yet to find any, but I’m always looking. Our raspberry season peaks about a week or two before the blackberries are at peak. 

I think it says a lot about our society today that these grow in plain sight and no one stops or sees them. Once Husband and I were picking huckleberries along the same path and a group that was jogging through from New York stopped and asked what we were doing. When we told them they asked if they were safe and weren’t we scared to eat them because they were wild. Some people think that if you haven’t   bought it that the item isn’t safe. Well  raspberries at the farmer’s market this week were $6.50 for a little container. I guess I am a little more frugal than that.

Open your eyes to the possibilities next time you go for a stroll in the woods. Or if you have a pasture, scan the edges. The edges of pastures are great spots. Birds sit P1000768 (2)on the fences and deposit seed. Look down a lot. Try and identify trees and bushes. We have hazelnuts bushes that grow crazy in the scrub oak areas. My favorite reference for foraging is “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell GIbbons. It’s out of print but easy enough to find used. I also enjoy his “Stalking the Blue Eyed Scallop” about foraging on the sea shore. Speaking of asparagus, wild asparagus is easy to find this time of year for next spring, the ferns are really tall right now and feathery. Husband and I found some new spots along the road just yesterday and noted them for spring.

Foraging saves us money and prepares us for if we ever have no choice but to go out and search for food. We will almost always be able to find something for the table. 

 

 

 

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chicken Lice

Yep. Little Nike our Faverolle has chicken lice. It’s horrible. Not life or death because we caught it in time. But, I feel bad for her. I checked the rest of the girls and they are fine. Faverolles are so fluffy. They have beards and big fluffy cheeks. Her feathers also seem packed together more than the other girls. It’s hard to get down to her skin through all the feathers. We named her Nike because of her feathered feet and how she loves to dash out of the run when I open the door.

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When I got home from vacation, I was watching them dash about. I picked her up just at random and noticed her beard was a little thin. When we looked closer, I saw the tell tale q-tip formations around the base of her beard feathers. Those are the eggs. >yuckadoo<

I checked her bum and it was fine. No q-tips. No bugs. I checked her back and was disgusted by all the creepy crawlies running about. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t rolling around constantly dust bathing or scratching! I immediately forgot whatever I was planning to do and went into attack the bugs mode.

Nike got a bath. First bucket soap, second vinegar, third rinse all warm.Then a blow dry. All this outside on the patio. She enjoyed her first blow dry thoroughly. Basking in the heated wind. She did not, however, enjoy the bath. All the buckets had a plentiful supply of dead bugs which is good. At least I was able to give her a little bit of relief.

I then cleaned out the house, put down a coating of DE ( diatomaceous earth) and fresh shavings. The run then got a coating of DE and then it ran out. Damn.

Food grade diatomaceous earth is little tiny fossils that cut through the soft bodies of creepy crawlies and also absorb moisture. To the naked eye it looks like a white powder, like lime you put on your garden. It is a natural non-pharmaceutical way to deter and attack unwanted bugs. It can also be controversial because it can kill beneficial microbes and bugs as well. I try to use it in moderation. The thought process is that they will dust bathe in it and kill the bugs.

That was Sunday. During the week I tried to order some more DE and some lice powder just in case they were superbugs. The DE I could find. But the lice powder was a bit harder. It seems there is an epidemic of chicken lice currently and it took four websites to find some in stock. I ordered some powder and some DE from a place in Michigan. Then I got a call Thursday. They were bought out of the powder, but would ship it next week with the DE. Jees louis!

Today, I went to our one local farm store at which I have never seen DE. I found a dust that said it was for mites, but didn’t say anything about lice. I searched out my favorite employee. He is Brazilian and knows his chickens. He also knows his organic and natural remedies. I asked him if the powder would work on lice. He said it would but, he had something better and took me to the garden section. There on the bottom shelf in the corner was a 5lb bag of food grade DE! Woo!

We had been monitoring Nike during the week. The bugs were less but not gone. Not to a comfortable point anyway. When I got home from the farm store, I put some of the DE in one of the bathing buckets and caught Nike and let the rest of the girls out to play. I then assisted her in a good dusting. Being careful not to get too close to her head. If DE is inhaled it can irritate the lungs and cause coughing. This is also true in humans. I then put her in the run so she could shake off the excess without causing the others to cough and then let her out to play. The run then got a fresh coating and hopefully that will be enough. She will be monitored and we will repeat next week if necessary.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vermont

Every year since I was a little girl the family has gone to Stowe, Vermont for a week in mid-July. They stay at the same condo that has the same furniture and decor and the place has never changed as far as I can remember. Stowe itself has changed around it. There are a lot of for sale signs. Stores change from year to year. There aren’t any true general stores anymore. They all sell chachkis. The Moscow Store was one of my favorites and closed a couple of years ago. You could buy some gas from the single pump, get some deodorant you forgot, your hunting or fishing license, some advice as to a good place to go hiking, fishing, or tubing, and some jerky all in one visit. It was a gritty place but friendly and you could always find what you were looking for without having to travel into downtown Stowe.

I think I am sounding too negative. I love Vermont. I dream every time I go there of having a little farm with more than a postage stamp of land and saving some barn or house that I see falling over in disrepair every five feet. It has such open space. There aren’t people every two feet. I always feel so crowded on the Island in the summer and Vermont makes me think about wandering away from here. But, I won’t so a week in July it will be.

P1000729 The Appalachian Gap

One place that I went that I had never gone before was the Shelburne Museum. This place is beautiful and there is so much to see. There are 39 exhibition buildings on 45 acres and many of the buildings are historic and of some significance to the history of Vermont even without the exhibitions in them. It was sooooo hot out, I only got to see a small portion of the property but what I saw was great. I started in the round barn.

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I’ve always wanted to see the inner workings of a round barn. There was an inner silo or hay chute. It was closed and you couldn’t see inside. The top floor had an exhibit on carousel animals all restored with great attention to detail. I believe it would have been originally used as storage for hay and feed. The middle floor where the door is, had an exhibit on paper as a medium. So there was all this paper artwork hung around the original milking areas. The stocks and feed troughs were all there and it was painted white. The bottom floor was mostly underground and walled in stone. I don’t know the use for that area. Perhaps living space for animals. There was an exterior door to the right. You can almost see it.

My favorite part of my visit was the paddle steamer Ticonderoga. The Ticonderoga was built in 1906 and plied the waters of Lake Champlain until the 1950s. She has been fully restored and it is a bit unsettling to come down the path and see her sitting in full splendor with accompanying lighthouse in the little valley built for her like a pond that has lost all it’s water.

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You can crawl all over the ship from the cargo area to the passenger area and the bottom to the top. I kept thinking that it must be similar to how people traveled to Martha’s Vineyard from New Bedford and on to Nantucket in the Victorian age. I love the attention to details and the “T” is incorporated into many things.

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There was a very nice woman in the bridge that told me all about it. I felt like I had my own personal tour guide. It was soooo hot! Have I mentioned that yet? On my way back to our meeting point I stopped by the carousel and the circus building. It was a good thing we were meeting to leave when we did. The skies had grown dark and imposing while in the circus building and they opened up and dumped buckets as soon as we made it to the car. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t really relieve the temperature issue. I had a wonderful and restful time in Vermont. But, I missed my husband, our animals, and the sea.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Home Again,

Home again, jiggity jig….. I don’t remember how the rest goes. Something about a pig. My grandmother used to bounce me on her knee and say the whole thing. Can’t recall now. Maybe I will look it up. Anywho, I have returned to my cozy little home on my overstuffed island. There are people everywhere and feel the island will sink soon from the weight of them all and their huge SUVs. But, our little patch is a peaceful respite. I will do a post of my trip to Vermont this week sometime. Today is an update on the goings on while I was gone.

First and foremost, Husband cleaned the house! And I don’t mean he vacuumed and tidied, but Cleaned. There was dusting and scrubbing and lots of sparkle. He even repainted the window in the bathroom shower and scrubbed the kitchen floor. He cleaned the trash barrel in the kitchen so it looks like new. I keep finding new things. He is truly amazing and he’s all mine. >sigh<

p1000763 (2) Betty and Doris best buds sharing a cucumber

The chickens fared the heat wave pretty well under Husband’s attentive care. He changed the frozen water bottles in the house twice a day, gave them cold fresh water with ice cubes, and would spray down the patio for them to splash around in when he was home from work.

Doris has started laying on a regular basis now. Despite the heat, both Betty and Doris are giving us one egg each every day. Which is amazing from what I have read on other blogs and from talking to other chicken keepers. The goddesses should start laying in late August or September.

Doris and Betty also acquired new jewelry in the form of ankle bands from the state inspector that came last week. 
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Each has a registration number typed on them that will be filed under our name with the test results and our NPIP certification number once we get it. I received the test results a couple of days ago by email that they are clean and I just need to get the goddesses tested when they are old enough and the whole flock can be NPIP certified. In her email the inspector said that all our birds looked very healthy and well cared for.
 
You may be wondering why we would go through the testing process when we only have six birds that stay here and never leave. Well, if I ever needed to rehome one, state law says they need to be tested before being introduced to a new flock or traveling off my property. A certificate is needed if I wanted to enter them in the fair. Though, I will not be entering them. I think that would probably be too stressful .
 
Also, selling and bartering eggs is important to us and having a tested flock puts a lot of people at ease. Proper egg handling and chicken care is just as important as having a tested flock when it comes to sharing your eggs with the public.
 
The farm that I barter eggs at sells my eggs with their eggs and other farmers’ eggs that have bartered. They have more demand than supply and have a public stand. It’s sort of like a co-op. We get the same price the host farmer gets for the eggs toward meat. It’s on an invitation only basis. That farmer trusts that each of the farmers she has invited to barter with keeps the same standard of chicken and egg care she does with her own flock. I feel having a tested flock is another layer of assurance for her.
 
It seams that is all that occurred in my absence. There will be another attempt at butter this week. I leave you today with the rhyme I couldn’t remember:
 
To Market
To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Out for a bit

Thank you for all your visits and nice comments this week. I am in Vermont for a few days and have left my dear husband home with all the girls. I made sure he was stocked with easy to prepare meals and plenty of his favorite snacks.

The state chicken inspector came for the first time on Sunday afternoon. Husband reported that she was very nice and quickly and efficiently took the tests. She had some questions about the younger girls and their origins and said we would have to get papers for them or get them tested when they are old enough. They only have three weeks to be old enough and she said she wouldn't mind coming back. Which is nice since they only usually come to the island once a year.

I will have lots of great pictures and information of my travels when I return in a few days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dilly Beans

Today’s trip to the Farmer’s Market yielded the season’s first beans. They were yellow beans. But still beans. And what do we do when we find beans? Make Dilly Beans of course!

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Dilly Beans are incredibly easy. They are only a bit time consuming because of having to cut them to size and fit them all in the jars. It helps to have good straight beans. Mr. Sherman at the Farmer’s Market P1000725 (2)always has the straightest beans. I don’t know why, but they are very dependable. He’s in his eighties and I don’t know where I am going to get them when he stops farming. Hopefully it will be a long time before I have to think about it.  

My husband’s family loves them and I can never make enough each year. The yellow beans do just as well as green ones on flavor. They don’t seem to wow the judges at the fair as much though and have never won a ribbon like their green counterparts.

In other news, Betty has begun laying dependably again. A large deep brown egg everyday. Hopefully Doris will follow suit soon. The younger girls are at 13 weeks and still have a bit to go. Soon we will have enough to barter for other farmer’s products. A good network of island farmers and a stocked pantry are an integral part of being prepared if we are ever cut off from the mainland.

 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hot Chickens

It’s been really hot and sticky this week. I know that it’s hotter on the mainland, but really the humidity needs to cool it a bit. My husband came home yesterday to Betty sitting inside the coop on the perch panting heavily. Now they have outside perches where there may be a semblance of a breeze. But, no let’s sit inside were it’s the hottest. 

He gave them a misting from the hose, fresh cold water, hosed down the patio so they could splash around and cool their feet off,  and let then let them out of the coop. He said they were drinking the water like it was going out of style and really seemed to enjoy pecking around on the wet patio. I didn’t realize they were getting that hot during the day. Last summer I froze liter bottles of water and stuck them in shady corners in the coop so they could have cool spots, but I didn’t think we had gotten that hot yet. I guess we have. They got them today and were doing much better this afternoon.

Betty is the only black chicken and she is huge. There is a lot of mass there and the black feathers absorb the heat more. I can see why she was in distress and I feel bad that I didn’t think of it before it happened. Tonight we had thunderstorms and it seams to be breaking the heat a bit. Hopefully it will be more comfortable tomorrow.

 

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In other news, the last unnamed chicken has acquired a name. She is the youngest and a Speckled Sussex. Going with the Greek Goddess theme, please meet Gaia.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Failure and a Book

This week for the Preparedness Challenge I planned to try my hand at butter. I went to Mermaid Farm on my Saturday up island jaunt and they were out of fresh milk. Coming out of the shed, I ran into Mr. Healy the farmer with a fresh batch of milk in the back of his truck. He said it would be about 20 minutes or so to bottle and he would fill the fridge. I came back later to a stocked fridge and took home two half gallons of fresh raw milk. Today I skimmed off the cream and tried whipping it up into butter. It was a HORRIBLE failure. Horrible… Horrible. <shiver>

Looking back I think I was too anxious to whip. I should have waited a few days. I will try again with next weeks milk and will not be defeated.

So not to contribute nothing this week, I would like to share one of my favorite books for being prepared for whatever may come. It is a very large book called: “Country Wisdom & Know How – Everything you need to know to live off the Land”

On the front it claims to have “8,167 Useful skills and step-by-step instructions” and I really think it does. It has a large animal section dogs, cats, birds, and farm animals. It tells you how to dispatch and process several different kinds of farm animals and then it tells you how to cook them in the cooking section. There is a rather large herb section with uses and how to grow. The Cooking section covers game, cheese, preserving, pickling, distilling, bread, and even ice cream and frozen yogurt. Gardening covers vegetables, fruits, and herbs and soil maintenance and preparation. There are also sections on Health, Crafts, and Home Maintenance which also includes fences, orchards and outbuildings. It is definitely an important book in my reference library.

( I should say that I am not benefiting financially  in anyway by sharing my love for this book.)

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Ahh Peace at Last

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We rehomed Betty’s baby yesterday to a lovely family. The whole family came to pick her up and the young girl loved her at first sight. They had eight chickens but had a raccoon attack and only two had survived. They are trying to rebuild the flock and assured me that they had made new security measures to protect against the raccoons.

Peace has fallen over the flock. The baby caused so much turmoil. Betty and Doris are usually best buds, but baby was terrified of Doris so Betty would chase her away whenever she came near. Doris was confused and angry and would take it out on the girls by then chasing them. The baby peeped constantly and loudly all the time. Like a little car alarm.

It is all gone.

It’s like it never happened.

Ten minutes after baby left the whole flock was free ranging together peacefully in the back yard. Everyone was getting along. This morning the only sound from the coop was Betty’s egg song precisely at 7:00am.

I wish we could have kept the baby. She was a Blue Splash Marans and her feathering was coming in so nicely. She was our first hatch and I was very attached. But, she has gone to a nice home and the quiet is so nice.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Dry Spell is Over!

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Doris and Betty both decided to start laying again on the same day! It’s been so long, two months at least. I was down to my last two eggs. I knew it was coming. Betty kept squatting whenever she saw me. I would just say her name across the yard and she’d squat. Doris’ egg is usually much lighter than Betty’s. Maybe the time between eggs caused a buildup in pigment. Doris is on the left and Betty on the right. We will see what transpires tomorrow. They are typically everday layers. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dreaming

It’s haying time. Not for us, but for the people who own this ideal spot.

P1000669P1000671P1000674Yes that is the ocean in the background. It is nice that these places have been preserved on our island and are still being used to provide for island families by feeding their livestock. I just wish it were ours to farm.   

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

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The darling husband and I packed a basket and sat on a bench along the beach side in Oak Bluffs. We waited until dark munching and chatting with the people gathered around us. Discussed the midgies and if they were worse this year than others and watched young people have skipping rock competitions and light sparklers.
At 9pm the spectacle began. I thought it may have been too foggy but the Edgartown fireworks were quite clear. Also from our vantage point we could see all the fireworks on the Cape from Falmouth, which was quite close and we could feel the big booms, to Hyannis off in the distance and all the towns in between. It is a wonder that all these people are celebrating with you and it makes you feel so small but part of something so much bigger.

I celebrate and am thankful to all that have protected our rights and freedoms.


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( I was trying the fireworks feature on the new camera. They are like little abstract paintings)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weekend Treasures

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This weekend yielded some useful and fabulous treasures. Let’s start in the front.

The classic pyrex pie plate for two. I have one other that size and a girl cannot have too many pie plates. This one is a size smaller than standard and is perfect for dessert for the two of us. Pies and crumbles look so much prettier in a glass plate. The ones in the middle are single serving and all frilly! I have never seen them before. Supercute!

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The basket is a different shape than any other I have. (and I have a lot) It will be perfect for beach plum picking or bringing a bottle of wine with some nibbles to a concert in the park or beach side sunset. I don’t think it would be good for some of the tender fruits like blackberries or blueberries. It’s too deep and the ones on the bottom would get crushed. I have other baskets for that.

Last but not least I got this great green lantern. I think it’s a carriage lantern of some sort. It was filthy when I bought it, which helped me get a great price. It had a brand new wick and looks like it has never been used. It’s fully functional all knobs and hinges work great.

 

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This will make my gas lantern count at two and help for being prepared for any loss of electricity. We live on an island and though we don’t loose electricity often it can and has happened in extreme weather.

Can you see the chickens in the background? That’s Aphrodite and Nike. They feel that if they are not in the picture it’s not worth taking. I got all this for under $8.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pickles and Peas

Today’s farmer’s market was crazy. I usually show up right before they ring the bell at 9am. This gives me time to chat with some of the farmers while I purchase before the summer people show up around 9:30. It’s in and out before 9:15. You get the best produce and the most variety first thing in the morning too. Well today was mayhem even early. All the people with the cameras. Pushy too. I have learned not to let these people ruin my morning. I floated through and still greeted each farmer and was patient. Today we got shelling peas, cucumbers, red onions, white onions, new potatoes, garlic buds, little summer squash, and some dill for pickles….

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This morning after the market and some stops at various yard sales I buckled down and made dill spears. There being no garlic bulbs yet, I used buds. We’ll see how that works. They look pretty in the jars at least. For dill spears I use the “Quick Dill Pickles” recipe from Pickles and Relishes by Andrea Chesman. I have found it an easy and adaptable recipe and have had good results with it. For rounds I use the “Burger Chips” recipe and it has also had great success. I think the secret of that one is the sitting in salt for 3 hours before hand. It draws some of the moisture out of the rounds and comes out a snappy chip instead of saggy.

I also shelled, blanched and froze a bowl of shelling peas. Should have probably bought more. I always forget how little you get for the bulk of the shells.

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A little before and after of the peas.

So, I think we are a little more prepared for winter now. In other news we have run out of apple sauce. It just tells me I have to make more this year and I will have to be more creative with the pork chops and the baking ‘til fall. 

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