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October, 2012:

Should I keep Bees? | The Wasatch Beekeepers Association

Great article discussing the question “Should I Keep Bees?”

via Should I keep Bees? | The Wasatch Beekeepers Association.

Now They’ve Done It!

This day has been long in the coming but they finally did it. The pigmy twins have broken the camel’s back or as you can see in the image, the apple’s branch. Our poor little apple tree started with five branches that were all different grafted apple varieties. As of Monday night, it has two left. They had removed (broken) two of the branches last summer. Monday night TaLula broke off the the third branch. It was the only branch that gave us apples this year. I guess Cael had accidentally let the darn goat out of the pasture and Amber could not catch the stinker. I wasn’t feeling good that night so Amber didn’t tell me and thought that she would just stay in the garden. Apparently the apple tree was just too much of a temptation. I went outside and saw TaLula chewing on the broken branch. She got a quick boot in the hiny and ran very quickly back to the pasture.

The pigmies really have been a big pain lately. They’re not as friendly and sweet as our lamancha goats and really like to get into things. They were Amber’s pets so I really couldn’t do anything about them. Amber finally had her fill of them and we asked our neighbor Chad to see if he was interested in owning two more goats. He said he was and came over Tuesday and took our pigmies away.

It’s a little eerie and quiet right now in the pasture. I really like it. I can open the gate without having to push an annoying little head out of the way. The kids can go do their outside chores without worrying about those little stinkers getting into  our hay supply. We enjoyed having them for the last two years but we’re ready to move onto different things.

2nd Annual Tomato Wars

The “Tomato Wars” started at the end of the gardening season last year. We were cleaning up the garden and getting it ready to till up when someone thought it would be a good idea to toss an over ripe tomato at my lovely wife. Well that caused quite the bloody, just tomato blood, conflict in our little clan.

The kids have been talking about our tomato war all summer long. We finally let them have their little war on 10/13. This year’s didn’t go as well as the first. There were a lot more tears in this year’s “conflict”. I think it was due to us being more diligent this year in removing most of the ripe tomatoes, thus leaving more green, hard tomatoes for the war. I think everybody got pegged by one of those owie things. I think we may do something different next year.

Here’s our video of the event. It’s very shaky and I’m definitely not destined for fame in the film industry. Maybe I’ll get a helmet camera for next year:

Salsa!

I am so happy with all of the salsa that we have put up this year.  It is soooo much work.  And not my favorite thing to do.  But there is such a satisfaction of seeing rows of bottles filled with my hard work.  Our garden did really well this year so I was able to do a bunch of salsa, spaghetti sauce, and diced tomatoes.

I found this awesome recipe at Belle Adorn.  I’ve tweaked it a bit this year and really love the results.

Yummy  Salsa

30 tomatoes peeled and chopped( Or don’t peel them :))
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
10 cups chopped onions
10 cloves garlic
4-5 yellow banana pepper or 1 cup chopped jalapenos
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
2 cups vinegar ( or lime juice, that’s what I use)
8 teaspoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 large cans tomato paste

Chopped cilantro if  you want( love it!)

 

So instead of the bell peppers I used my Anaheim chili peppers that I grew in my garden.  And of course, you can add more or less jalapenos depending on how spicy you like it.  Your salsa will get hotter the longer it sits on the shelf, so keep that in mind.  I also really like the flavor that the lime juice adds.

So, make sure you have a HUGE pot.  Oh, and a food processor.  I got one for Christmas this year and it has changed my life!  I had to hand chop everything last year!  I actually don’t peel my tomatoes, I figure everything is getting chopped and cooked and you really can’t tell the difference.  So why make the extra effort.

Also after I put my tomatoes in the food processor Cody suggested I strain them so that there is not so much liquid.  It was a great idea!  It makes it so much thicker and I don’t have to cook it down as long.  I use the strained tomato juice and cook it down into tomato paste.  Super easy!

 

So, chop, chop, chop and put everything into your pot.  Then let it let it simmer on the stove for 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Make sure that you have sterilized your bottles and your lids.  I usually just toss the bottles into the dishwasher and they are all ready when I need them.  Fill your jars and put your lids on and put them in your water bath canner.  Start timing it when it gets all steamy for about 20 minutes.

Then after they cool, admire the fruits of your labor and pat yourself on the back every time you open a fresh can of salsa in the dead of winter.

 

Next Year’s Priority

My lovely woman and I sat down tonight to decide next year’s priorities for money. We made a big list of wants and then categorized them into “Really Want”, “Nice to Have” and “Someday”.

Really Want

This list is in desired order. We hope to be able to do it all next year.

Bees Finally going to get them next year
Kitchen Fridge Our current fridge isn’t doing so well. Want to replace it and put the current one in the garage for when we need the extra space.
Chickens-Meat Worked out well last year.
Trees in the Pasture Add more shade for the babies in the pasture. We have four out there now and plan to add more every year.
Apricot Tree Our apricot tree died last year. Would like to replace it.

 

Nice to Have

This list is not in any order. I’m doubting we’ll able to do much on this list.

Pigs We’d like to do pigs both for the meat and for the 4H opportunity for our kids.
Outside Water We hate having to lug buckets of water during the winter when we shut off our sprinkler water.
Greenhouse Amber would really like to have one of these. We have most of the windows, just need to do a foundation and lumber.
Hoses for the garden We’d like to rework how we do our watering in the garden.
Fence We’d like to help encourage neighbor dogs to stop pooping in the yard.

 

Someday

Again, not in any order. Mostly to keep it in our sites as we strive to move forward with our little farm and house.

Gravel for side Garage Right now we have weeds in this driveway. Gravel would help immensely.
Cement For Driveway Rip out the “nature” area between our two car garage driveway.
Workshop\Barn Area to store farm stuff and for me to keep my tools.
Porch in the Back Allow us to enjoy the evenings without being carried away by mosquitoes.
Stove and Oven on Porch Cook on the porch without heating the house in the summer.
Walkway to Pasture Flagstone Right now we have worn down grass path to the pasture. Would like it to look better.
Patio Furniture Enjoy the covered porch.

 

What Have We Come To

My oldest daughter was feeling pretty gross today so my wife took her to the doctor at 4. That meant that I was supposed to be responsible for getting dinner together for the family. I know, scary. We picked a bunch of raspberries Friday before the frost came and I didn’t want them to go to waste. So I made some German pancakes with raspberry syrup, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner. The whole time growing up my dad would make waffles for us if mom wasn’t around to make dinner. It always turned out pretty well, although there was that one time that he tried to warm up Dominoes pizza that didn’t turn out so well. Maybe he should have stuck with breakfast.

My mom made German pancakes for our family for as long as I can remember but we called them funny pancakes (because of the bubbles). We started making them for our kids and they dubbed them silly bubble pancakes. They absolutely love these things and we usually have to double the batch because they scarf them down.

The raspberry syrup recipe came from here. It worked out pretty well except the blender didn’t stay sealed when I tried to blend the hot berry sauce … what a mess, tasty but a mess. The corn starch clumped pretty badly too so I don’t think I’d mess with the corn starch next time.

Take a look at our beautiful raspberries. Ever since I was a young boy I’ve loved raspberries. My Grandma Cloward had a ton of raspberry bushes in her garden and I would spend hours stuffing my face. I definitely need to increase my number of raspberry bushes.

Yeah, I’m With The Goat!

This is the story of picking up Leila from the fair on 9/13/2012. We had arranged with Bruce from Rusty Gates Ranch to pick up Leila from the fair at 9pm. I was not super excited to drive down to Salt Lake that late but I guess you have to follow their rules.  I realized as I was getting off the freeway in Salt Lake that we didn’t have Bruce’s phone number so we could meet up and I didn’t even have his name. Amber had arranged to meet him on the thirteenth and had forgotten to get his information. So I tried to use Dex on my phone to look up his information. That was hard and obviously wouldn’t work because we didn’t have his name. We did remember the name of another lady that kknew Bruce and tried to find her number. I found a number with the same name but it wasn’t her but I ended up having a lovely conversation with that lady about goats. I decided that I would just try to meet Bruce in the goat barn, I kind of remembered what he looked like but I for sure remembered what Leila looked like.

I’m now at the front gate, telling one of the gate workers that I bought a goat and need to pick her up. I really didn’t want to pay for another fair ticket and I wasn’t sure what the process was for removing an animal from the fair. The gate worker was super nice but didn’t have any answers for me. He called his boss over and he didn’t know either. So the boss called his boss to find out where I was supposed to go and to do. The whole time I have a Bluetooth headset in my ear with Amber on the call. She’s making lovely comments to “help” figure things out. The gate workers finally decide that if I want to drive my truck “closer”, I’d have to go further down the road and take the goat over to the area next to the stadium. If I wanted to, I could walk Leila through the fair and just leave my truck where it was. It seemed pretty silly because to get my truck “closer” would actually require more walking from the goat barn to the truck than just leaving it, so I opted for leaving it. They let pass me through without having to buy another ticket, sweet. Ten bucks saved!

I finally make it to the goat barn and see our cute little Leila in a pen and was relieved that she was still there. I didn’t see Bruce anywhere around but I do see our friend Nita a little way away. I ask her if she’s seen Leila’s owner (remember that we still don’t remember his name) and she asks where their pens were. I point over to where Lelia was and she gets a weird look on her face. She tells me that the Petersons’ son had a bad accident early that day and they had left.  Amber, who is still talking in my ear via Bluetooth, starts to freak out that she’s not going to be able to get her new baby. Nita has phone numbers for all the goat people at the fair so she gives me their number so I can figure out how we were going to get our goat. I try to call the Petersons but  just get their voicemail so I leave a message saying sorry about their son and requested that they call me when they get a moment so that we can talk about Leila. Right when I hangup, another lady that was helping Nita says “Leila, I don’t think Leila was Petersons’ goat”. Long story a little less long, Nita had had a long day and didn’t really see where I was pointing and just assumed the worst and that Petersons were the ones I was supposed to meet. She felt bad. She tells me that Bruce was Leila’s owner and that he was around here somewhere. Probably just went to get something to eat. So I  have to call the Petersons again and explain the misunderstanding, again via voicemail.

I decided to hang out by Leila’s pen to wait for Bruce. As I was giving Leila a scratch behind the ear and talking to Amber via Bluetooth, a lady came up to me and started drilling me on goat trivia. “Why did these ones not have ears”, “Why do those ones have really long ears”, “Why have so many different breeds?”, “Do you really milk goats?”, and on and on. I’m not sure why she thought that I would have answers for her. Two years ago I wouldn’t have. I must have gained some kind of goat aura in the last little bit. Her hubby was either in a hurry or embarrassed by her questions because he kept trying cut his wife off.

Bruce finally showed up with some dinner in hand. We exchanged money, Leila’s registration papers and contact information. We were all set and he said “Ok, just put your collar on her and you’re ready to go.” And I think “Collar, what collar?! No one said anything about bringing a collar!” When we saw Leila last week, she had a very nice collar on her but she didn’t have one now. I start to look around for something that I can use when I see a red scrunchy on the ground that some little girl probably dropped as she was looking at the goats. A little embarrassed, I grabbed the scrunchy and slipped it around Leila’s neck. I’m about to start out when Bruce says that he wants a moment with Leila. He tells her that he loves her, that he hopes she’s happy and to treat us right. It was very sweet. I hope to be that attached to our animals.

I then begin my trek through the fair with my 100 plus pound goat through the fair. I don’t think I’ve ever been so popular as I walked through the fair with Leila and her scrunchy. Everybody that I walked by was in awe that there was a goat at the fair and I’m sure that they were also impressed with the skill and awesomeness that I exhibited as I walked Leila. I heard so many whispers, “That’s a goat!!”, “Wow, look at that!”. I didn’t want to go anywhere without a goat in the future. It was pretty cool.

Unfortunately the walk came to an end and I had to get our Leila into the back of the truck. I hadn’t thought this far in advance but Leila was really heavy and long and I wasn’t sure how to get her in the back of the truck. I tried to give her a heave and it didn’t end so well. Luckily there was a good samaritan close by that saw my first attempt at goat lifting and offered to help. I let him take the head while I had to confront her nether regions. Up she went and right into the cage we borrowed from a neighbor (thanks Chad). She was not too pleased to be in there and she was less pleased as I drove down the road. She quieted down as I hit the freeway, or I just couldn’t hear her due to the freeway noise.

I got home about 11pm and let Leila check out her new home. She seemed pretty pleased with the place and Amber was super excited to have her new baby in the back.

I’ve got to Bee

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My wife and I have been wanting to do bees for a couple of years now. Every six months or so we’re convinced that we’re going to do bees and we were going to do it right then and there. And every time we happen to talk ourselves out of it. There are a couple of people at work that have bees and several in our area that have bees and it bothers me greatly that we don’t have them. I think it will be a very rewarding addition to our little farm.

We almost committed ourselves last week to some existing bee hives that some people were selling in Spanish Fork (an hour away) but decided that we wanted to take the beginner’s beekeeping class that our county extension service puts on in the spring. We also didn’t want to take on a hive with so little time before winter hits.I’d hate to invest all that money and have the bees die due to our inexperience. I want to do this right.

The plan is to study up by reading the Beekeeping For Dummies book again, taking the course in the spring, ordering the equipment and bees so that they’re all here by spring of 2013. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

I’ve got to bee so bad.

Getting Started With Your Own – Laying Chickens

So you want chickens, do you?! It can be very daunting to start a new animal hobby. We’ve started new animals a couple of times and each time I was super worried that I was going to kill my new pets due to my lack of knowledge. Hopefully this post will give you a great start and you’ll be able to learn from our mistakes.

First thing that you need to do is decide if  you are going to raise chickens for eggs, meat or both. If you want just meat chickens, you’ll have to look at a later post about that. Laying hens are pretty easy and if you want them for meat when they’re done laying (about three years), you can do that too. Just keep in mind that chickens that are three years old are not going to be the roasting type, they’re better in soups or put in a pressure cooker.

I have absolutely loved having chickens. They were our first rural animal. They are super easy to take care of and require the least amount of work of all our animals.

Items You Need:

  • Chicken Coop
  • Feed
  • Water
  • More Knowledge
  • Chickens

Chicken Coop/Run:

Chickens don’t need a big fancy coop and they don’t need to be super expensive. We spent $300 on our first coop that could hold 8 to 10 birds and I think we paid too much. Check your local craigslist or other online classifieds for good deals. Also check your local farm store, IFA and Cal-Ranch for us. You need to decide how many birds you want. The size of the coop will depend on the number of birds you want. The standard is 4 square feet of coop space per bird and 10 square feet of run space (check here). We fudged this a little and did not have any problems. Just realize that these ladies poop a lot and a lot. Many birds in a small space will lead to a big mess for you to clean often and they will get agitated with each other if they don’t have enough space.

A coop should have a nesting box or two. When we bought our first coop, we were excited to see that it had 6 nesting boxes and thought that would be sufficient for our 8 hens. We soon learned that all 8 birds only used two of the boxes and they chose the hardest ones for us to get at. We closed off four of the six boxes. In our current coop we have six boxes again with 13 hens and they all share just two boxes again. Silly girls. Sometimes we see two of our fluffy butts in the same box.

Also make sure that the coop has a roosting bar. Our first coop had a couple of different levels of bars and the ladies fought and fought  for the highest bar.  Our new coop has a single bar so that they wouldn’t fight as much. They still fight for the spot closest to the wall but it’s not as bad as before. Also keep in mind that the hens like to snuggle, especially in the winter. They don’t need a ton of roosting space. Beware of the area below nesting boxes. Chickens do most of their #2 while they are roosting. So keep the area clear and put something underneath to catch it so you can just remove it, scrape it and return it.

You also need to make sure the coop has ventilation but not drafts. Chicken don’t need heaters in the winter, at least in Utah, but they don’t do well if they have cold wind blowing directly on them. If you do put a heater in with them, they don’t climatize as well and if you lose power to the heater you could lose your babies.  Because chickens are such awesome poop machines, the ammonia can build up if you don’t have good ventilation. That ammonia is not good for the girls or you.

For our current coop we found a used firework stand in the classifieds and paid $150 to have it moved from SLC to our house. It’s not the prettiest but it’s big. We converted the right side to a chicken coop and the left side to a shed/milking area for our dairy goat.

Feed:

Feeding chickens is pretty stinking easy. We just buy layer pellets from the local farm store. You can make your own if you want. They don’t eat a lot either. For just a couple birds, a single bag would last at least a month. You can buy a plastic or metal feeder to put the feed in. We built the current one we’re using now out of wood scraps. Make sure that the feeder and waterer are not under where the chickens sleep, they will poop in their own food and water.

Example

Water:

Nothing too special about watering your chickens. Just get a waterer and try to keep the water as clean as possible.

More Knowledge:

If you have any kind of question about chickens, feel free to ask a question on this page or look at backyardchickens.com. I had to scour backyardchickens for months to feel comfortable enough to get our chickens. They have lots of useful information.

 

Chickens:

Now for the fun part, choosing your chickens. This is my favorite part. There are so many different types of chickens. Each one has their own unique traits. Try to pick chickens for your needs. There are people down the street from us that get 25 birds of the same breed every year. I like having the variety of different birds.

If you want to research the different breeds, I’d recommend going to the Chicken Breed choosing tool at backyardchickens. They have a lot of breeds listed. Watch out for the chicken math. Last year we were supposed to get five birds and ended up getting 15 new birds.

I’ve always picked up my birds from the local feed store in the spring but you can order them online from places like Murray Mcmurray or you can hatch out your own eggs using an incubator. The eggs should come from someone that has a hen that is “contact” with a rooster or order them from online. I’ve never done the incubator thing so I can’t give you any advice on that.

Once you have your babies, you’ll need to keep them contained in a brooder box. Chickies aren’t very good at keeping their own body heat so you’ll need a heat lamp to help them out. They also a need a special chicken feed called chick starter. It’s typically medicated. After six weeks of being in the brooder, they’re ready to get out to the coop. Depending on the breed, I’d expect them to start laying at 4 to 6 months old.  Every time that we move our babies out to the coop we are very tired of being chicken mamas.  However, every spring we are very excited to have new babies.

Please feel free to ask any questions or correct me if you have a different opinion.

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A Bun In The Oven!

Literally a Bun in the Oven! Haha! I am talking about an awesome artisan bread baking in the oven. So yummy! I was chatting it up with Cody’s cousin’s cute wife, Jinger and she was interested in my whole food approach that I am trying to implement on our homestead. Basically I try to not have processed junk in the house. I make lots of things from scratch. This includes bread. I found an awesome no-knead artisan bread on Theitaliandishblog.com that I love. I also make honey whole wheat and french bread. I’ll post those recipes eventually.This recipe is so great because you mix everything together and then you can stick it in the fridge and just take out a bit of dough when you want a fresh loaf of bread.

 

This is what you need:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated fast acting (instant) yeast (Iuse SAF yeast)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all purpose white flour ( I substituted 2 of the cups for wheat flour.. still amazing)

Just mix it all together, cover it loosely and then let it rise for 2 hours on the counter.  Then you can cut off a chunk and let it sit on your pan  for a half hour or toss it in the fridge.  You can let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days and just pull out what you need whenever. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more it takes on a sourdough taste.   Which is awesome because I can never get sourdough to work for me.  It can stay in there for up to 14 days.   Again, just let it sit for a half hour and then bake. Oh, and make sure you take a sharp knife and put some little slices in the top.  It helps release gases while rising, and it makes you look like a pro!

When you bake it, fill up a pan of water and put it on the bottom rack of your oven.  This will give your bread that thick crusty crust.  Yumm!

Put your pan of water in and then bake at 450 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes.  Or until you have a gorgeous golden brown loaf.  The website I got it from says that it makes four, 1 pound loaves.  But I usually make two, 2 pound loaves because I have super hungry kiddos.

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of my beautiful loaf before half of it got devoured.  Oops!  It was soooo good though and it made the house smell amazing.  So, I dare you to try this recipe!  Your family will thank you for it!