Monday, July 30, 2012

What Do Other People Do On the Weekend?

Do they rack wine?
Here is the pink lemonade wine in its bottle. The taste is quite nice. I think we will be making a lot of it.

Do they make yogurt and bake pigs ears?
I usually make 2 quarts of yogurt because that is normally all we can use up before it goes bad and, of course, you don't want it to go bad because  you have to have some left to make your next batch.
As for the pigs ears, Romeo can eat all those in one week....easily.

Do they slice bacon and make their own sausage?
I sliced up two chunks of bacon and took out a bag of pork pieces and made sausage with it. I think that is my last bag for sausage but there may be one more somewhere in that freezer. I had about 6 bags of bacon and 6 of sausage. This is the spicy sausage that we like best.
I lost the little blade to my meat grinder--can't find the thing anywhere but a few weeks ago I picked up a grinder/slicer at the thrift store for $7. It's called The Kitchen Works and boy, does it work good. Phil is rather disgusted since he paid over $80 for the one he bought me and it struggles to grind meat and takes forever and this thing just whips right through it. I didn't even have to get the meat really cold first. (I will order another blade for the other one though).

Do they pick hazelnuts?
These are the very first ones. I noticed a few had opened up so snatched them up before they fell. There will be enough to probably fill this bucket later. I would like to see if I can make hazelnut butter with them. 

Do they have to water the garden?
Do they have to fight with the pig to get his feed dish back and nailed back on?
Do they have to move baby quail out to their greenhouse?
Do they have to secure their pens so baby chicks don't get out and eaten?

Anyway, that is what I did this weekend. It wasn't busy all the time though, I did watch almost a whole movie yesterday evening.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Phil's Birthday Present

Here is what I have been working on and finally finished yesterday so that I could give it to Phil for his birthday today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Few More Improvements

Phil has had another couple of days off again and has been busy. I have this little fountain that I love but it sat on the ground and every time I let the ducks out they mucked it all up and then I would have to clean it each day so finally it just got unplugged and sat there unused. I mentioned to Phil that I wanted a little table to set it on and he surprised me with this the other day. Yup, pallets.
I have since added a few plants to the table and plan on adding some more in the ground around it. We might even grow some grass out there if it ever rains again.
Now yesterday Phil really tackled a hard job--the back shed. Normally you would never have gotten a picture of our back shed. It is where all the pens are but it is also where all the junk was stored, including a couch. It now looks like this...
AMAZING! He got the couch out and put the butchering table in there and set the feed and hay on it and there is so much ROOM and no couch for snakes to hide under! The wire on the left side (yes, there is some trash that needs to be taken off this week.) is the bantam pen. You can't see the quail cages beyond that. The red thing in the back is my sink, the wooden thing beside it is the chickens nest box. It attaches to their pen and has a door on top so I can open it and get eggs. The metal in the front on the right side is a set of homemade cages that used to be rabbit pens but now belong to the pheasant and a pair of bantams and their new, since yesterday, three chicks.
Anyway, those are our improvements--thanks to Phil. Tomorrow is his birthday and I will be able to show you what I made him :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Door and Gate

Phil has been busy. The duck pen is going on its 3rd or 4th door now, I really can't remember. They all last several years but this summer, the current duck pen door had finally had it. The bottom board had fallen off and it was getting holes in the middle board. Phil surprised me with this last night. It doesn't even hit the roots in the ground when I open it and close it like the last one did!
Then today he did the shed gate. The back shed has had a wire gate. Just a piece of rabbit wire, stretched across the opening that I nailed on one side and hooked onto nails on the other side. Today it has this.
Yes, of course, that is more pallet wood though he did have to buy a 2 x 4, some hinges and a latch.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pinapple Zucchini and maybe jelly

I won't say for sure on the jelly until it actually jells because we all know I am so much better at making syrup than I am at making jelly.
I posted this recipe on the forum at the beginning of this month and then Paula tried the recipe and highly recommended it and although I don't have zucchini growing right now I did find five large ones in the store today that I felt would work for the recipe. I just peeled them, scooped out the seeds with a spoon and then cut them in chunks.
You then put them in a pan with the pineapple juice, lemon juice, and sugar and cook them for 20 minutes.
Put it in the jars and water bath can for the 15 minutes. My 5 big zucchini only made 3 pints with a lot of juice left and the blog with the recipe said just use pectin and make it into jelly. I was a bit skeptical but went ahead and got out the Sure-Jell and went ahead and tried it. Will let you know if it jells.
I still have Michelle's cakes to make. I am going to make a couple of pizza cakes. They called for Fruit Roll-Ups to make the pepperoni out of but there seem to be no Fruit Roll-Ups in the stores anymore so I am making strawberry  fruit leather and hoping it turns out good and I can use it instead. We'll see.
This is my second post today so if you missed the pink lemonade wine post see the post below this one. 

Racking and Pink Lemonade Wine

I couldn't sleep this morning. Woke up at our regular 5:15 a.m. I really hate when I do that but I do have a lot to do today with Michelle's birthday party tomorrow so I decided just to get up and get busy. I racked the lemon balm and cranberry wines.
 The racking cane is pretty easy to use and works well leaving all the sediment in the bottom. I also tasted them. They aren't as flavorful as a grape wine would be but the cranberry wine has a nice taste. The lemon balm wine, however, is rather tasteless, there is just a little hint of lemon after you sip, not much. Hopefully it will improve some with age. If it doesn't I won't give up on it, maybe I will mix it next time with a fruit that will compliment it like strawberries or something like that.
 So the primary was empty as the grape wine went into its gallon jugs as well but Jack Keller came to the rescue when he posted a recipe for pink lemonade wine on his blog. I absolutely love his blog and website. So many different wines to try! I also like that he makes them in 1 gallon batches instead of 5 gallon ones. I don't want 5 gallons worth of a wine I might not like so it is nice to have the recipes for one gallon.
All this one took was two cans of pink lemonade. I went with Minute Maid.
Some yeast nutrient, sugar, lemon juice and, of course, wine yeast. Had I known wine could be this easy I would have tried it a long time ago.
 It was then time to go shopping and then feeding the animals and canning. The canning post will be next.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

So the Pig Got Out--Almost

If you have liked the facebook page you already might know that the pig was out of his pen tonight.  However, he never quite had his freedom. See in order to get out of his pen he had to break through into the chicken pen, which is also chain link (except for that one little spot where he can break through). He then had to get the chicken pen door open (it is a chain link gate) which apparently took some time since he tore the chicken pen all to hell first (the chickens escaped through his hole and then through a small hole into the duck pen--yes, I know, too many little escape holes!). Eventually, he somehow hit the door just right to get the latch open. He was then in the back shed. The back shed used to be open on two ends with the pens and shed on opposite sides but we have closed off one side with pallets, the other side has what used to be the rabbit pens on it but now are the pheasants and some bantam pens(they are build of wire and wood) and the only opening is covered by wire which I used like a gate. Piggy did not get out of the back shed. He somehow scared the duckling and little bantams out of their pen where I had just moved them (I still cannot figure out how they managed it since their pen/cage was not opened) and the duckling was at the shed gate squawking like crazy. My mind didn't even register that the duck was out where he shouldn't be but I knew he was away from those little bantams he brooded with and that just doesn't happen.  If you have animals, and one happens to be a big hog, you know you don't ignore when you just know something is wrong. I was out the door quick and then running back to Phil for help because Piggy knows I bring food and he doesn't listen to me until he gets it but Piggy runs from Phil.
Didn't take us long to get the pig back in but I had to get in that pen with him. UGG! Six days of rain does not make for a lovely pen. And we had to get another pallet to put against the hole in the fence because our lovely piggy had buried the other one in the mud (and there is no way I was going after it). I then retrieved several feed dishes that had been lost (I keep nailing them to the front barrier but after a few days he gets them off and takes them too far into the pen for me to reach).  I easily caught the duckling and her little bantams and got them back in. It is 92 degrees out today and, of course, humid as it can get, so by then sweat was just running off both of us, my glasses kept slipping and I had had enough so went in for a few minutes to wash off, change and get cool.
About a half hour or so later I  had to come out and get the chickens out of the duck pen. My chickens have a new rooster. The red ones were happy to follow him when I "herded" (flocked?) them but the Ameraucans, 2 of them, apparently thought the duck pens was nice. You have to bend over in the the pens because all of them have chain link on their tops as well and it is sagging so it isn't exactly easy to run down chickens in it. I did eventually get those two in the back shed, then the white one trotted right in the pen but the yellow one gave chase, flew over things but finally got chased around the door and into the pen.
I had plans for tonight. I was going to run all those tomatoes on the counter through the strainer and then try to make some spaghetti sauce with them. I also hoped to get down to the garden to cut basil and go out back and trim that basil plant out there and make us a nice big batch of pesto.
Isn't going to happen now! And would you believe it, that is thunder in the distance...I need another beer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pallet Fence- Part 3--The Finished Gate

Phil finished the gate today while I was at work. The cats have yet to figure out how to get over it. They climb up the back side and sit on it but can't figure out how to go down the other side. One of the kittens tried to go via the fig tree but, of course it doesn't extend over the fence.
Raining yet again tonight. I believe that makes 6 days in a row. The animals are going to float away soon. 

Well, I Got Something Done

But it wasn't a whole lot. I had trouble getting to sleep last night (rough day at work to where you mind goes over and over it) but I still got up at 6:00 a.m. this morning to make sure I could get something done. I did get this done....
Here are the coffee plants and chokeberry transplanted and in the greenhouse. I dusted all around them with DE after the picture to keep my greenhouse slugs and snails (or whatever) away.
In order to put the plants in the greenhouse, I had to evict the chickens and I evicted the duck along with them. The chickens have their own pen. The duck would not go with the other ducks so it (looks like maybe a hen) is now in the back shed sitting by the pen with her chickens in it. I'll leave her there for a while as long as nothing bothers her.
I got the quail eggs boiled and ready to pickle this evening.
Then Phil has ended up with the day off so we got that leaking air conditioner out of the window (no easy feat, I assure you since the banana plants are behind it). Phil blew it all out using the air compressor (while I finally got to clean that window) and then we got it back in. Hopefully it won't leak now.
I'm off to work now, think I will stop for something caffeinated first even though I am not supposed to have it. If I don't I will likely be asleep on the job though no one would notice since it is a field trip day and I will be there by myself.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coffee- Arabica

I have wanted to try growing coffee for a while now. No I don't expect to have any huge harvests but I wanted to try it. Coffee plants do take several years to grow and can grow very large but they can be pruned to keep them small so that is what I plan to do with mine. The plan was to keep them in the greenhouse, however, that might not work. I bought them from eBay and the seller stated that there would be 3-4 plants per pot. Mine has 9. They all, obviously, need to be re-potted. My windowsill isn't going to hold that many but I can put them outside for a several months before we have any chance of frost. My greenhouse, is small and I will have several other plants that have to go in it this year and I will also have to provide some type of heat in there this winter. I used to run a heater in it and will likely have to do that again.
Here is a site that I found particularly helpful when I looked for information on growing coffee plants:
I intended to get them transplanted this evening but it is just miserably hot and humid outside (rained again last night--yes, really!). Plus after feeding the animals and thinking about it, I still don't know what I am going to do with them all. I am thinking that even though they need full sun, our porch will be too hot right now for "seedlings" and the greenhouse still has three chickens running around in it. I feel, no I know, I am getting a bit behind on things that need doing but it is just so darn hot here. It isn't even cool inside as one of our air conditioners has decided to leak inside all over the floor and even after drilling it a new drain hole, it is still leaking and, of course, it is the big unit. Ugg. So it has to stay off until Phil can get time to look at it.
So the plan is to get up early tomorrow instead of letting myself sleep until 8:00 and see if I can't get a few things done. Time seems to be a'wastin' while I sleep. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chokeberries- Aronia melanocarpa

This is my new chokeberry bush. I bought it off of eBay and I am very happy with my purchase. Yes, that is a one inch pot and the "bush" is very small. It costs me with shipping approx. $8. That might seem a lot for such a tiny plant but I have never seen a chokeberry bush for sale anywhere that I have lived so I think it is a deal.
So why buy a chokeberry? It was really simple. There was another plant that I bought (probably the next blog post) and the plants were cheap but the shipping was $6.99 (plants have to go priority) but the seller had a deal for a second plant shipped for only $ .50. This was my second plant. I just hate to waste a good deal.
So what are chokeberries good for? Well, they produce tart black berries that are good in jams and jellies but I don't need any jams and jellies, however, what they are also supposed to be good for is! Yeah, I bought it to see if I could get enough berries to make wine with it.
For some great information on chokeberry please see this site. I could tell you the information but have no first hand experience since this will be my first time growing a chokeberry bush.
I want to give the eBay seller credit here. I have bought from them before and have always received great plants. It is pretty hard to send a plant through the USPS and Wellsprings Garden does it really well.  I don't know them, I have just bought plants from them.
I am thinking I will plant this in a pot at first. Not sure if I will leave it in the greenhouse (which seems to have a slug or snail problem, plus a few chick (ens) that keep getting loose--you would think they would take care of the slug or snails but I am not sure if they have or not) or if I will leave it in the yard. I am thinking it might need some cold in the winter so it may be best to leave it outside.
Anyway, I will, of course, keep you all posted on its progress.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Smoked Pork Shoulder

Ok, here is the smoked pork shoulder we did today. I smoked it with plum wood at 250 F. I don't really know how long it smoked for. I took it out there sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. and the wonderful $30 digital thermometer said it was done about 3:00 p.m. It looked good...
but it wasn't done. Another couple hours though and it looked like this...
It was SO GOOD! I made  mashed potatoes and corn on the cob with it. Threw the diets right out the window...

Pallet Fence- Part 2

Well, we did not get the gate done as we ran out of wood so it will have to wait until we can get more. I had the thought for not cutting that one post and putting the bird house on it. Phil made that bird house YEARS ago when we first moved in here and it has sat in the shed ever since. I guess it was waiting for the fence to be built.
It is just miserably humid today (rained again yesterday evening) and though the temperature wasn't as hot as yesterday we we sweltering out there this morning finishing this.
There's a pork shoulder in the smoker so will have a post on that later.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pallet Fence- Part 1

I got the idea from watching a video on youtube. I wanted a pallet fence. It would go from the house to the shed on one side and then go from the other side of the house, up the hill and then over to the greenhouse. That would basically fence off the whole back yard.
Phil brought home about eight pallets and we spent about $45 on wood, screws, gate latch and hinges today. We started work on the fence from the house to the shed. It seemed so simple in the video but it wasn't quite that simple. I have post hole diggers but they couldn't dig down in this red clay very far before hitting something. Getting things straight with the slopped ground is almost impossible and then doing the peak on the arch was a bit tricky as well and, of course, some of the pallets had boards just slightly longer than some others and they all had to be cut. However, I am very pleased with our progress so far. I did not get a chance to take a picture at the beginning as I was busy holding posts, and 2 x4's but here is a picture after the arch was done and Phil has started putting on the slats. It is hard to see with everything in the background.
Here it is after the slats were put on.
This is a better view from an angle. We still have one section of fence to do up to the shed and the gate. Hopefully it will all be done tomorrow. Then we can start collecting more pallets for the longer fence on the other side.
I want it done so that we can let Romeo out without worrying about him running after some neighbors loose dog (he thinks he is as big as they are) and I want to be able to leave the ducks out of their pen during the day without having to worry that they will be eaten by those same dogs.
We will likely paint the fence to help it last longer though I do think it looks rather nice the way it is now.

Friday, July 13, 2012

In the Yard Today

I know you could probably care less what is in my yard today but I really haven't done anything except work this week and I am sure you don't want to see baby quail again so here is my walk around the yard this morning.
We'll start with this rose. This little rose bush has struggled along but has not bloomed in years. It sits beside the driveway and for a while just kind of got trampled and once Phil mistakenly cut it down with the weed-wacker but this year it has grown enough to get one bloom. It's spot in the yard is more protected now as other things have grown up around it. It is a very nice smelling rose too.
Here are a couple of the Rose of Sharon. Rose of Sharon is nearly a weed here. These I got from a couple neighbors who were more than glad to give them away. They didn't even know what they were called but had lots of them. They seed everywhere and even now I have lots of little sprouts that need to be cut down or given away.
There is a couple purplish ones and a more pink one. I know I used to have a white one but it either is not in bloom or is gone now.
Here are some more 4 o'clocks escaping the front flower bed. I am tempted to pull everything out of this bed and plant something edible in it but for some reason Michelle likes this flower bed.
The fig trees have grown quite large now. I believe both will have to be cut back this fall before they get out of  hand.

Also huge are the banana trees this year. By the way, the bloom fell off in one of the storms we had. I believe I will have to separate some of the bananas this winter (if we actually have a winter this year) and move some of them. I wanted a few banana trees to shade this side of the house but I didn't want a whole banana grove.
Here is the picture of one of the hazelnut burls. The hazelnut bushes are perfect for growing here. They seem to have no bug or disease problems and grow really fast. I will have to cut some of these back this year as well since these are planted beside the driveway and I have to walk through branches to get in the car.
Here is another shot of the Meyer lemon. There are one five little lemons on it this size the rest are smaller.
These aren't actually in my yard but just a few steps up the road, beside the road. These are the wild muscadine grapes. They are the ones that will turn purple when they are ripe.


 As you can see they don't grow like other grapes. No big clusters just a few here and a few there. 

Over by Dukey's run you will see this:

This is one of the dead trees that fell in the last storm. I am really surprised that we didn't hear this one fall. That is one tree. The top broke off and fell then the bottom broke too and fell beside it. Dukey was in his doghouse I am sure since he doesn't appreciate rain and storms much.
And lastly this is the wonderful pile beside the driveway where Phil parks his truck (we have two driveways).

This may seem like junk to some people (well the tire is junk) but this is the beginning of my new fence in the back yard. You all will have to wait for that post though.
Anyway that is the walk through my yard this morning. I had a terrible time taking pictures as it has rained for 3 days in a row and it is so humid that the lense kept fogging up.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Monday's Harvest and Update on the Garden

It's almost Monday so close enough. Here is the only picture I took of the harvests this week. It is just tomatoes and peppers but a few more than last week.
I have started to plant a few more things in the empty spots in the garden. Here in the bed that the carrots never came up in I have planted a few cucumber seeds and some more beans.
In with them are the basil, thyme and oregano. The basil and oregano really  need to be harvested again.
Here is the bed where the squash have died off. I haven't decided what to put in here yet. Right now it is growing nasturtiums and although they are edible, I think I can put it to better use.
These are the tomato jungles. Three beds that basically all look the same. There are more tomatoes than you can see in the pictures but I had harvested all the red ones.
Here is the sunflower seed head. It will have a few seeds anyway. 
 I do have a few tomatoes on the porch as well (besides the ones in the hanging baskets. One of them has its first tomato just starting. I bought these in smaller pots marked down for $2 each. I figured I would get at least $2 worth of tomatoes out of them. I have transplanted them into these larger pots and am going to see how well they do on the porch. Our porch is quite sunny almost all day. These have grown quite a lot since I bought them.

Phil and I have been doing the usual work plus cutting back bushes, fighting wasps in those bushes and I have made 3 quarts of yogurt so we can have enough for more yogurt pops!
Join everyone at Daphne's Dandelions for more harvests....tomorrow, I will be busy in the morning taking Michelle to register at Augusta Tech.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Update on the Wines

So today was the day to open the lemon balm wine and put it in a jug. I used my racking cane  with new tubing this time and this was the sediment that was on the bottom of the bucket.
Here they are now in the jugs fermenting. I will rack the cranberry wine again in about 3 week and then the lemon balm in a month. I did taste the lemon balm wine. It was not nearly as strong as I thought it would be but it definitely had a kick to it.
Aren't they pretty!
Now I hope you don't think that the primary will be empty now. I bought 4 cans of Welch's grape juice concentrate. Here is the recipe only I used the 4 cans that I had.
The juice is in the primary bucket now and tomorrow I will be adding the yeast. I'm going to have to buy a couple more airlocks...
Speaking of wine, I bought an issue of The Backwoodsman magazine today and it just happened to have an article titled Primitive Wine Making by Jacob Spiese. There were a few recipes and I found it interesting that this man does not like to leave his wine until all the carbonation has finished. He likes the bubbles in it and he actually corks the bottles but does mention that they can sometimes pop off. Anyway, I don't believe I will follow that advice. He did have an interesting recipe for tea wine though.