Thursday, December 5, 2013

Six Steps from the Soup Pot

I have been writing somewhat of a journal on facebook, detailing life with guineas. I decided to move it over here, so that I have a more accessible record for when I finally write my book. I will move the earlier posts over sometime soon...

Today, on Guineas in the Rain, we find the hopeful Homesteader standing by the Big House, watching all the young chicks enjoying their new found freedom outside the run. There are worms to pull out of the damp ground and leaves to chase, big hens to is quite an enjoyable way to spend a warm, rainy, winter afternoon.

I had just turned all the big chickens out of the run, when I heard a squawk on the front porch. I looked up to see our main roo Jasper working his magic with one of the banty hens, when out of nowhere a guinea jumped him from behind and chased Jazz Man away from the hen! Much put out by this unexpected interruption, Jazz turned to engage this rude creature and he was summarily jumped by all THREE of the male guineas (collectively known as Jack)!

Now, if you are new to guineadom and have not seen guineas fight before, there is a lot of head bobbing and wing flapping while the females bunch around and cry their "buckwheat, buckwheat, buckwheat" is quite annoying, to humans anyway. However, when three guinea males gang up on one roo, the fight looks a little different. One of the males enagaged Jazz from the front, pecking at his head and neck, trying to get a good hold on some of those beautiful neck feathers. The other two were diving in from behind, trying to grab the fluffy white under-feathers right above the base of Jazz's tail. Now, I'm no rooster, but I would have to guess that having your tail feather pulled has gotta hurt!

Across the yard and through the woods they came, Jazz putting up a good fight, the three males in it for all they've got, the two females with their annoying "buckwheat" is a regular back alley fight! I am watching carefully, and all the while, cheering Jasper on. "Way to go Jazz!! Show those Jacks who's boss!"

Around the Big house they come, a roiling mess of feathers and noise 'til they end up right at my feet! Jazz is breathing heavily, the Jills are still yellin' at the top of their lungs, baby chicks scatter in every is pandemonium in the hood! Well, except for Princess, our Gold Lace Black Polish. She is so oblivious to everything going on around her because of those crazy feathers that hang down in her face. She just calmly strolls through the middle of everyone, looking for that next sweet taste of bug.

Anyway, as Jasper comes back up for air, after shaking the last Jack off his tail, he calmly and smoothly strolls into the run, leaving the guineas in the yard. I close the door to give him a minute to collect himself and go up to talk to the Hillbilly for a minute to tell him all about the drama I have watched unfold. I say "Those darn Guineas are six steps from the soup pot, if they don't back off my rooster!!" We decide to let Jazz out of the run and see if we can even the odds a bit. I mean, Jazz does need to step up and own this yard..there are lives at stake here!

As soon as I open the run door, the boys are back at it again...they all rush toward each other and meet in the edge of the woods, but this time, Jazz Man is not flying solo. The Hillbilly and I try to stay out of the fight as much as possible, only stepping in when it becomes and uneven fight (read: three to one), by pushing the extra birds out of the melee. Jazz quickly realizes that he is liking this help and the Jack realizes that he is in way over his head, and after a few tussles in the woods, the run is on...and on...and on! Jazz is chasing the Jacks around and around and around the house. You will hear the Jack yellin' as they turn the corner, cryin' for Mama. All the other guineas, by this time, are hiding together under the azalea (also known as Command Central) hoping that Jasper does not see them as he runs by.

This goes on for quite a while, until Jazz has three of the guineas penned in the run, and they finally show submission to him by cowing down and going under his chest. He seems quite satisfied with himself by this point and when I came in a few minutes ago, the Jacks and Jills were hiding out at Command Central, trying to figure out if the there is a Rooster Consultant they can hook up with, while Jazz Man is perched on the run door (his favorite spot) crowing and looking around the yard with an expression on his proud rooster face that says "I am King of all that I survey!".

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Glimpse Into My Morning

Icy frost glittering in the early morning light.
Mist drifting up from the overfull creek.
Bare branches raising their arms to the pale blue sky.
I pull the frozen air into my lungs,
And breathe thanks on misty breath that I am finally home.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 7...Whatever....

Are you as tired of this as I am? I mean, don't get me wrong, having beautiful jars filled with dried food is wonderful, but this ad nauseum daily posting is taking all the fun out of it for me! So here you go:

Dried Napa Cabbage:

Slice about 1/4" thick, blanch the thickest parts about 1 minute to soften a bit. Dry at 115 degrees about 8 hours....or was it 10 hours...see the real story is we put this in Desi and there was so much else going on today, that I totally forgot it was in there 'til just a little while ago. Needless to say, it was D.R.Y. Two cabbages filled two quart jars.

Quite awhile ago, we did Sweet Potato least, they were supposed to be chips. I think that if someone breaks in the house we could quite literally hurl them at the intruder like those little spinning disks, and they would be either sliced into bits, or they would run screaming from the house, never to return! See...they are too thick, and we left the peels on, so they curled up around the edges, which looks pretty, but makes it very difficult to actually chew them without hurting yourself. You be the judge. But I have a waiver around here somewhere that you need to sign where did I put that darn thing...

Oh, and did we mention plantains? Not the leaf you chew up and put on a bee sting, should you 'bee' so unfortunate to get stung (we have dried that too, by the way), but plantains...the tropical fruit, that is sliced, salted and dried...well, if you REALLY want to eat it, then FRY those puppies! The dried ones are fine...they are just bland like a seersucker dress at a summer picinc.

Oh, this is good.

I have these gorgeous purple basil plants out in my garden. I got them from different places, but they are so very pretty. I have been drying them and filling jars with the gorgeous leaves.

Then Wednesday, the President of the Ladies Homestead Gathering (the PRESIDENT, mind you) was at my house with two of her board members for a meeting. A meeting where I was going to become the president of a new chapter for LHG...excitement was running high, anticipation was building...and she said:

"Oh, you have Parilla growing! You better watch that or it will take over!" "Parilla," I asked, stupidly..."you mean this plant?" (pointing to another swap meet plant I had gotten earlier). No, she was talking about my "purple basil"!! Parilla: "The medicinal uses of perilla include treatment of such ailments as indigestion, colds, malaria, coughs, and even cholera."

Yes, that Parilla. So if you come to my house for Thai food, and there is "purple basil" in the can be sure that you will go home without your cold, your malaria or your cholera!

Wait, that reminds me of a post from years ago about my parsley! Remember?!?! My gorgeous green parsley (which I was overly proud of) that turned out to be carrot tops! Oy! I can see I need to stick to chickens and leave the herbal stuff to someone who has a clue!

Real Basil...yes I am sure! I bought it at a cool aquaponics place, and the girl who picked it for me has a biology degree, so we can be pretty certain she knows what she is talking about!

Ok, so I think we can be reasonably certain that we are all caught up on our dehydrating adventures. If you want any more details (if you dare) on anything I mentioned here, just leave me a comment and I will shoot it to you!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 7 - Dried Mushrooms and a Story

From our guest blogger, Sweet Girl

Here's an exciting story about how we found mushrooms. My mom and I were at the store and we looked for mushrooms. There wasn't a single mushroom at the store. We went to a dozen stores and there were no mushrooms. So we packed a bag and went to Virginia, but could not find any. So we went to Colorado, but nobody had any there either. We finally just gave up and went to our refrigerator to make dinner. And guess what we found? Mushrooms! All the way in the back!

The End

Here's how you can make your own dried mushrooms:

Wipe off your mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Break off the stems and clean out the gills with a spoon.

Carefully slice to 3/8" thickness, spread out on the dehydrating tray and put in dryer.

Set temp for 115 degrees. They will take 3-7 hours. Ours took six hours.

We broke them in pieces and put them in a pint jar and air sealed them. Five large portabello mushrooms made about 1 pint.

Day 6 - Onion Rings, and Time

OK, by this time, you are very certain that we are living in an alternate universe, where days are not 24 hours long, and weeks turn into months (or so it would seem). I am here to say that we do realize there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 28-31 days in a month, 52 weeks in a year and 365 1/4 days in a year. There. Now that that is out of the way, we can move forward.

Here is our problem...we have been so busy in the kitchen making butter and yogurt and drying things every day and canning...that we (I) have not gotten around to posting what we are doing. Neverfear, faithful reader, I have enlisted help! Help in the form of my darling daughter, Sweet Girl, who is taking on the project of writing our blog posts. Now 'all' I have to do is find the time to sit down to post them!

So without further ado, I present to you my Sweet Girl!

Dried Onion Rings

A few days ago we dried onions in the dehydrator. First we brought a pot of water to a boil.

While we were waiting we peeled and sliced the onions on #4 setting on the electric slicer.

Then, we broke up the circles. My brothers and I were crying and our eyes were burning so bad! While our eyes were burning, we wanted to know why onions make you cry so we watched a video on Youtube. We found out when you cut into an onion, you break its cells and gas comes out and gets into your eyes. We also found out that if you refrigerate your onions you won't cry when cutting them open.

After that we dropped about 3 handfuls of onions in the boiling water for about one minute. Then we took them out and layed them on a dryer tray that was on top of a baking sheet with sides.

We put the dehydrator tray over the sink, then we rinsed the hot onions with cold water to cool them. Thankfully, nobody got sprayed! It is okay if the onions overlap a little bit.

The last thing we did was to put the trays in the dryer and set the temp to 115 degrees. We left the onions in the dryer for about 24 hours and we rotated them every few hours so they would dry evenly.

Then we put the onions in jars and sealed them with an air sealer.

We started with 8 pounds of onions and ended up with 0.67 pound!

(Note: We learned from Grammmie that either these are not really Vidalia oinions, or that they are from last year which makes them VERY strong!)

I hope you will have as much fun dehydrating as I do. :-)

And a bonus for everyone who made it to the bottom of this post! Here is a picture of our very first Roasted Rooster Stew! I got tired of the kids asking "is this is Ruffles?! (he was the only one we named) so I said, "Yes, this is Ruffles." Now Ruffles is gone, so we are just eating chicken. So glad to have THAT out of the way!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 5 - Granola - Oh, yeah Baby!!!

Wow! This turned out so good! I hope you like it!

I am trying to get this posted before I run out the door to Bible Study...see, I promised Jess of the beautiful face that I would get it posted tonight, and I would hate to dissapoint her! So here is the quick and dirty...well, not dirty, but the quick how to!

First, I rolled 2 cups of oat groats...this would equal about 4 cups of rolled oats from a can with a cheery man's face on it. To this, I added 3C of water and 1/4 cup of whey. You could also use milk kefir...just something with some active culture. What we are doing here is breaking down the bad guys in the grain a bit, so it is more digestible. You will let this sit out on the counter for 12-24 hours.

Next, you will use a slotted spoon to drain some of the liquid out...this will aid drying time in the dehydrator.

Now, spread out the oats on a drying sheet (the same one you use for fruit leather). We used a fork, so it was not smoothed down, just evenly distributed. Dry at 115 degrees.

After 3 hours, bring out the trays and break up the granola, spreading it evenly over the trays again.

Back in the dryer again for 2 hours, then I mixed up the granola mix: 3/4 of a banana mashed, 1/4 + 1/8 Cup maple syrup, 1/4 + 1/8 C almond butter, 3/4-1 tsp good vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt. (sorry for the wierd measurements...I had more oats than the recipe called for). Mix well, then mix in oats. Spread back out on trays for an hour and a half. This will get it dry enough to eat, but if you are going to store it, keep it in the dehydrator til it is crunchy dry.

Finished granola...we served it with the yogurt we made yesterday...see Day 4!