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“A Post About Today: February 23rd, 2021”

The upper greenhouse just before the big melt and shed. Here Andy is movings some snow around below it whilst I standby listening for any indication that the snow may break loose and come down.

With daytime high’s in the upper 30’s and 40’s, brisk winds, and bright sunshine, it’s hard to deny spring is here.  Yesterday the upper greenhouse was 51º!   Our 20 inches of fluffy white powder has melted into a semi-crusty “snowball-quality” snow.  I marvel that our language only has a few different words to describe snow, when it can take on so many different consistencies.  

In anticipation of the warming weather, and the potential for more snow on the horizon, it was high time to work on removing snow from roof tops.  While this is a constant job during the snowy season.  For the last 10 days or so, we’ve been accumulating 4 to 6 inches of snow almost every day- so all that hard work removing snow disappears overnight!

 

 

The upper greenhouse after it shed a massive layer of snow, throwing it all the way down to the road and nearly taking out some solar panels with it!

Removing snow from the massive upper greenhouse is the most dangerous affair.  The goal really isn’t to bring the snow down, because that would probably kill you, but to move the snow below it around to make more room for more snow.  Thankfully with heavy snow loads, once several tons of snow starts moving downhill it gains substantial speed, which launches the snow through the air and away from the building.  Unfortunately, one set of solar panels is just downhill from it!  We’ll have to move these panels this summer now that we know just how far that snow will fly!

But snow is old news, right?  When you’re hibernating, hovering on the cusp of spring though, there’s little else to talk about.  When will the road open?  How much more will it snow? What will the weather be like tomorrow?  These things consume a lot of conversation time.

 

The barnyard has been quiet, aside from a rash of dove murdering at the beak and talons of a crafty hawk.  That’s pigeon gore all over its face.  For awhile I couldn’t figure out how it was getting into my aviaries.  Thankfully it’s decided it’s tired of being picked up and moved by humans and has resigned to eating chickens in the open barnyard…  Hawks gotta eat, too!  What can you do?
We are also  now 2 weeks or so away from baby goats, which is always exciting! Ruma looks like she’s got triplets or quads in her, but last time this happened to one of my does, she just had two massive kids, so I don’t have my hopes up.  We’re mostly looking forward to the fresh milk for fresh cheese again!  
Impending goaters aside, the sows are pregnant but we’re still at least 1 month away from more piglets. Dotty’s piglets from October are proving to be true to their papa’s Julianna genetics, weighing in at only 30-40lbs each.  Her last litter from our Kune Kune boar weighed in at nearly 100lbs by this age!  Juliannas really are a fascinating little pig.  The barrows will make excellent spit-roasting sized butcher hogs.  And of course I am intensely curious about those tiny little pig skulls…  Considering she had 10 boys- 10 boys!– we’ll have plenty of barrows to butcher in the spring.  We’ll keep her daughter and play with these tiny-pig genetics a little bit.

 

Otherwise, as you may have noticed, I’ve closed shop for a bit.  Having to hike a mile out to the car 3 times a week through powder up to my knees was getting old.  I don’t like dreading shipping days.  So until we get a little more spring melt (or until the next stimulus check comes out- because sales always spike when things like that happen) I’ll be enjoying a spot of true hibernation; no where to go, nothing pressing to do, no need to even know what day of the week is!  Ahhh.

 

 – Jen

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“A Post About Today: February 6th, 2021”

I’m going to make my first attempt at adding some fun photos to the blog post.  Does that make it a… plog?!  :B  
Edit/update: since it seems to have worked and looks nice, I’ll work on adding photos to more of my previous posts. 

We recently got about 12″ of snow, and there’s still plenty more on the forecast.  At last, the snow has come! We’ve hardly had 3 feet of cumulative snow up to this point, which is very unusual.  

To celebrate, it was time to clean 12″ of fresh powder and 12″ of crusty old melted snow off of some roofs.   

One of the rigorous winter chores is cleaning off vehicle and building roofs.  It’s hard to say how much snow would collapse any given structure or vehicle.  It’s also hard to say how much it might snow over night!  So best not to leave anything to chance.  It’s best to just clean the roofs off when the snow gets 15″ to 20″ deep.  

The dogs break excellent trails through the knee-deep powder.  Windy drift areas along the unpacked trails are sometimes waist deep.  Neoma the Dog took the trail-packing lead with with the help of her abundant puppy energy, albeit her trails zig-zagged from tree to tree in ever-hopeful pursuit of squirrels…

Spring is fast approaching, but it’s not here yet.  As I mentioned in my post about the 2020 Harvest, we still have a few loose ends in the realm of the barnyard.  Today concluded the rooster round-up from the 2020-season.  7 more roosters to butcher and we’ll be done… almost…!  There’s still a few cockerels from late-fall/early-witner hatches that are too young to butcher yet.  But these are the last of the un-needed crowers.

We raise a few different bird breeds.  One is the Marans, a breed that, to my knowledge, originated in France.  I’ve been raising a few different ‘lineages’ of marans for about 8 years.  The breed was developed, I assume intentionally as they are a meat bird, to produce 70-80% male offspring. The boys are much larger than the girls in this breed, so more boys means more chicken meat each year.  This is one reason you don’t commonly find marans available from big-box hatcheries.  Hatcheries always have too many boys to begin with, and trying to reproduce and sell a breed that produces mostly male chicks doesn’t make for good business.  As a hatchery, what would you do with thousands of extra boys?!  They’re already giving their boys away and still have too many!  
Most of my butcher boys each year are pure marans or half-marans crosses.   These last 7 roosters on the whack-list are lavender Ameraucanas crossed with black copper marans.  A handsome group, but alas, “more roosters” is not what the world needs, as is evident by the surplus of “free rooster” ads that have been circulating in our area for months to no avail.  And “more roosters” is certainly not what my barnyard needs- the poor hens are now finally getting a break from the harassment that’s been going on far too long!  I usually keep 3 breeding roosters and a few replacements roos in case something like predation happens in the flock.  That’s enough roosters!

I also raise ayam cemani crosses.  The I have been raising ayam cemani for about 6 years.  I’ve never heard it advertised about the breed, but I’ve bred 2 lineages of cemani and each one has produces the opposite of marans; 70-80% females.  If not more! 

As I have a particular interest in breeding fibro birds with funny colored meat, I love throwing fibromelanosis genes into my meat birds.  Why eat a pink chicken, when you can eat blue, black, purple, and green chickens?!  As it so happens, most of my fibro-crosses end up being girls, alas.  So I don’t get many blue eating birds unless they’re half-marans roosters.  
In 2020 we hatched out about 120 chicks.  Roughly 20 were cockerels, and all but 2 of those were marans-crosses.  This is the usual story each year.  Most of my laying hens are now 50% or more cemani as a result!  I don’t mind, they’re absolutely beautiful birds, they lay wonderfully, and they’ve been excellent broodies.  Which is odd, considering cemani are not known for going broody.

Hope that’s an interesting tidbit!   I intended to talk about the snow, but hey, chickens work, too!

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“A Post About Today: February 1st, 2021”

It’s a bright, sunny Monday morning.  My orders are in the post and I’m now hiding in front of the computer.  The thermometer says it’s 38ºF in the greenhouse.  The top of our greenhouse today will likely reach 50ºF, whilst the draw below the cabin is likely in the teens or single-digits.  It’s a comfy 70ºF inside after a busy morning of frying up sausage, pancakes, and onions.

Why am I indoors in front of the computer?  I fractured my ankle and I’m trying to stay off it.  It’s been a blessing in disguise, considering I got THIS done!  This website!  The thing you’re looking at right now!  I get to busy my time indoors writing posts like this and migrating my inventory into this fancy new shop.  Once I’m up on my feet again I won’t be getting quite as much computer work done.

How did I fracture my ankle?  Walking.  I was walking, then I was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened.  My body glitched and fell down.   I soaked my foot in a series of foot bathes during the first few days.  Featured herbs included horsetail for tendon and ligament healing, comfrey/hound’s tongue for healing the fracture, and birch bark and marshmallow to reduce inflammation.
 It hurt for 2 or 3 days and then I was fine for about a week.  I puffed myself up with pride; “Ha-HA!  Take that fracture!  I heal you instantly with my herbs!”  Then I spent a day mechanicing on the ever-broken vehicles.  My front right brake caliper was seized up completely and I had to take the caliper pins out, strip the grease and rust off, re-grease them, put them back in, and replace the caliper.  We had the car completely blocked and suspended since it’s all wheel drive and we can’t test the steering and wheels with just the front end jacked up.  I was prepared to change a CV axle, but because of the seized brake (which had apparently been seized for some time be we didn’t notice because we’re just crawling up and down the icy mountain roads, not driving around town), the brake pads and ball joint on that side were trash.   So we needed to get the ball joint and new pads before tearing everything apart again and replacing stuff.  May as well do as much as you can in one sitting while you’ve got it in pieces!

Anyway, a few hours of crawling around on cardboard mats on the snow and ice in 25ºF, moving tires and cranking on wrenches, and my ankle was starting to scream at me again.  That day really lit it up with pain.  Now for the last week I’ve been laid up and barely able to walk on it.
I got too cocky and confident!  I stopped my tea bathes when the pain stopped.  Of course fractures aren’t going to heal in 4 days!   So it’s back to soaking in tea bathes and minimizing my walking.

But more about today and recent events!  Well, Andy recently built a bathtub out of wood, that’s super cool.  I mean, I have no qualms bathing in a plastic tote, but I realize not everyone is lucky enough to be so small that they fit in a storage tote.  Sometimes I pity the tall, I really do.  
The bathtub was made out of a single length of 16″ lumber that he milled with a relative’s saw mill.  We’ll likely never see boards like them again. The massive tree they came from was gifted to him, we certainly don’t have trees that large on our farm.  So the tub is roughly 16″ tall, 16″ wide, and 4′ long with a nicely sloped back rest.  He filled with with ultra-fine saw dust from the table saw and then filled it with water; as the water runs out of the seams, it sucks soggy sawdust through it it and clogs all of the leaky joints.  It’s sealed well enough in this way that, if left filled with water, it will only leak about 1″ of water per day.  To empty it we scoop the water out with 5 gallon buckets and water the plants in the greenhouse with it.  Even in winter, they still need water delivered!

He now wants to make bathtubs for everyone he knows with the last of this magically gigantic lumber we have.  So far no one is interested in a wooden bathtub.  I can’t fathom why!  A 100% natural, raw material bathtub with no chemicals, plastics, sealants, or other harmful crap!  What’s not to love?  I mean, yeah, it’s gotta be spritzed with some thyme or other antiseptic teas to keep the mycelium from moving in and eating it.  But hey, maintenance is maintenance, whether it’s wood, metal, plastic, or porcelain!

In other news, only 6 more weeks until baby goats!  And do you know what that means?! 7-8 more weeks we can go back to milking the goats!  😀  I swear I’ve been dreaming about fresh milk and cheese since we stopped milking a few weeks ago.  It’s important to dry a doe off before she kids.  Not only do want her to focus her energy on growing the kids instead of producing large sums of milk to humans, but milking too close to her due date means you could start milking out colostrum that the kids need to develop their immune systems when they’re born!  We’re toying with the idea of selling 1 doe’s kids as bottle babies so we can milk her for us, and letting the other raise her kids.  It will likely depend on the genders they have.  Several of the neighbors are interested in buying the kids, so who knows, they might want every one we get and we’ll end up milking both does!

I’ll leave it at that for today. Thanks for reading 🙂

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“The New Website”

If you’re reading this, Hello!  Welcome to the fancy new website!  Are you enjoying the shiny new blog feature?  I hope so.  I’m still trying to figure out what a blog is, so bear with me…

This is my formal acknowledgement of the changes.  I did it!  I finally did it.  I surrendered to the almighty website building technology!  

I must admit, the last time I tried to use a website builder was probably around 2008.  The technology at the time was so basic that I chose to do all my own coding on my website.  My precious little website that I’ve spent countless hours fiddling with over the last 13 years!  It’s never been much, but I’ve always taken pride in coding it myself from start to finish in basic HTML5 with a basic sprinkle of CSS.  

However, creating a ‘shopping cart’ was beyond me 🙁   I tried a few times and never succeeded.  Using Paypal’s imported cart features are archaic and cumbersome (or at least they were last time I tried).  Before switching to this fancy WordPress site builder, I relied on a .PDF catalogue where people could email me a list of what they wanted, then I sent them an invoice to pay, they paid me, then I shipped the item, and we did business that way.  But a lot of folks can’t be bothered to go through all that work.  We’ve struggled to fluidly conduct direct sales from our website.

So it was time.  At first I hated this new site builder- I still feel like it’s lacking in color and images; my ability to edit most site features is very limited.  This is when folks say “Then upgrade to Premium“, and I say “NEVER!“.  At the time of writing this, I’ve been tinkering with the new website for 4 days.  I’ve figured out enough of the customization to feel content with the changes.

Hopefully everyone else likes the new vibe of the site, too.  Maybe I’ll start slipping in more photos here and there of this and that to brighten it up.  I chose a black background because white screens are hard on my eyes, and also, we are off-grid and run on solar/battery power.  A black screen uses less energy than a white screen 😀

If you’re new here, and you sort of like what you see, keep checking back.  Hopefully I’ll remain active and keep tweaking features, adding blog posts, and most importantly, continuing to migrate my inventory into the shop.  We’re also on satellite internet and currently we’re over our data limit, so listing new items takes 5 to 10 minutes, at best, per item…  It’s rather tedious.  There’s no guarantee that a new data cycle will speed things up any.  After all, my internet has to go into orbit before coming back down to Earth, I cut it some slack for being a little bit slow.

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“Counting the 2020 Harvest”

There’s something very magical about producing your own food.  I’m not the best at keeping records, but I do try.  So here’s a peek at what we managed to produce in the 2020 season.  Granted, the ‘season’ is not yet over.  We’re still contending with foodstuffs grown last year.  Our food and farming season will not begin anew until the spring!

Canned Fruits:
79 gallons of apple, pear, huckleberry, aronia berry, and elderberry syrups, juices, and sauces

Pickles:
13 gallons of pickled carrots, onions, beets, greens, and cucumbers

Pressure Canned Foods:
39 gallons of canned squash
12 gallons of canned pork


Home butchered/cured/ground/smoked meats:

120lbs+ sausage
150lbs+ of bacon
7 butchered roosters (and another 15 running around still that need to go!)

Fats & Oils:
20+ gallons of rendered lard
100+lbs of raw fat for future processing

Fruit and vegetables from the garden:
200lbs of potatoes
75lbs of tomatoes
3 apples (haha! it was our orchard’s first year trying to produce, all of our other apples were wild foraged)
10lbs of cauliflower
5 tiny hot peppers
50lbs+ leafy greens
50lbs+ squash (most of our canning squash we traded for from a friend)
10lbs carrots
20lbs sweet corn
5lbs sunchokes3lbs of yams
100lbs of beets + greens

Wild Foraged Fruit and vegetables:
close to 1 ton of apples
6-7 gallons of huckleberries
20lbs of elderberries
20lbs of aronia berries (technically not foraged, we harvested these from a friend as part of a trade)
400lbs of pears

 

It was a cold, tough summer in 2020.  We still had nights close to freezing in July.  In total we had roughly 60 days of ‘warm’ growing season.  The heat-loving plants struggled terribly, but the cold lovers did wonderfully.  The peas, beans, peppers, corn, and squash limped along and produced a few morsels of food.  The potatoes, kale, orach, cauliflower, beets, and carrots did decently.  The apples and pears had a good season on the South side of the mountain, but the North side fruit trees didn’t have a single fruit on them this year. This year we installed 6 different varieties of raspberry in many different places. We have 3 varieties of asparagus growing, but each year I split them to the brink in order to multiply them, so we haven’t had a chance to eat any yet.  

 

With enough colonies spread around the greenhouses, this year I started spreading asparagus to outdoor areas as well.  I have high hopes for it!  My sunchokes are the same story; instead of eating the harvest, I spread and proliferate them in many different areas.  These food systems need time to establish before we can enjoy a fat harvest from them!

Here’s to hoping 2021 will be a little warmer in the summer!  We still buy salt, onions, yams, and popcorn, but are otherwise nearly sustained on what we produced in the last year.  Woohoo!

 


So what are the final 2020 tallies?

143  gallons of food preserved
300+ pounds of meat
20 gallons of oil (potentially twice that if we render the rest of the fat)
520+ pounds of food grown
2,500~ pounds of wild fruit foraged

 

 

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“On Self-Advocation and Self-Love #1”

If you live with the aftershocks of trauma, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and others is to self advocate.  Speak up about your triggers.  True, over time and with proactive work, you can desensitize or eliminate your triggers.  But in the mean time, learn to speak up for yourself.  This not only helps to stop the trigger from happening, but it communicates clearly with others that you have a boundary that you’d like them to respect.   Maybe that’s being touched or approached a certain way, or loud noises of a certain kind, or certain conversational topics.  When you see the trigger coming, or right when it happens, politely but pointedly speak up.  You can say something like;
Hey, please don’t touch me from behind.
I don’t handle that well, please don’t do that.
I’m not okay with this, please stop.
This kind of thing is upsetting to me, can we turn the tv off/the volume down please?
You don’t have to go into a lengthy explanation of why you have a sensitivity.  The important thing is that you, in a respectful manner, advocate for that sensitivity in a clear and direct manner.  How someone chooses to react will tell you valuable information about the individual.  More often than not, the other person will say “Oh, sure, my bad.” And hopefully they’ll make a mental note of this new boundary you’ve set and will make an effort to respect it in the future.
If the other person is blatantly disrespectful and refuses to accommodate your reasonable request(s), make a note of it.  This person is willfully disrespectful.  They do not respect you and you should set boundaries with them accordingly.  If they intentionally subject you to the triggers after you have clearly communicated your request not to, it would be healthiest, if at all possible, to reduce your contact and communication with this person wherever possible.  If they’re a friend or family member, that still applies.  Loved ones do not have some special right to disrespect you. They should be held, on the contrary, to a high standard than the average person in your life!
If the disrespectful person is in the workplace, school, or other place you’re obliged to be present at and thus you must be around this person, my best advice is lead by the change you want to see.  If someone goes out of their way to disrespect you, after self-advocating and reminding them that you’ve requested respect from them, be certain that you go out of your way to respect their boundaries.  Chances are this other person has been disrespected so habitually in their life that they resent respecting others.  So giving them due respect may enact some positive change in their life.
Granted, I’m not referring to instances of overt and blatant abuse here.  Abuse situations require self advocation of a stronger suit.  That’s a topic in and of itself.
In conjunction with self advocation, you need to also respect your self.  The two go hand in hand.  Each will make the other easier, but the absence of either will hinder your efforts.  You may be at war with your body or your mind (or both), but they’re the only ones you’ll ever have.  Take small steps in treating yourself with respect by physically supporting the needs of your body and mind.  It’s hard to expect others to respect you when you aren’t showing basic respect to yourself.
So find ways to advocate for your body- to your self!  If you are struggling with your diet habits, make small, positive, healthy choices and changes.  Do it for YOU.  For no one but yourself, your body.  You were born with a meat ship and you’re stuck driving it until you die, so do your best to keep it running as smoothly as possible.  Try adding a few new veggies into your diet, or cooking a nice homemade meal, even if it’s simple, instead of eating out or microwaving an instant meal. Validate your worth, justify splurging a bit on yourself with a cut of high quality meat or fresh seafood from the local meat shop, or a switch to organic pastured eggs or higher quality ingredients, that rare-but-crazy-expensive seasoning that you normally don’t let yourself get, or, one of my own favorites, buy that obscenely over-priced pomegranate.  Why?  Because eating pomegranates without a utensil is fun, of course! I’ve learned to thoroughly enjoy the juicy, messy challenge, for no other reason than indulging in something that’s not only healthy, but is amusing, nonsensical, and lightens my mood.
If you struggle with hygiene, try simple conscious steps to improve the physical health of your skin- I highly recommend tea bathes for this.  Put a large pot of water on to boil while/before drawing your bath.  After it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and add loose-leaf herbs.  Lavender is soothing, mint is energizing, rose leaf is astringent, basil is antiseptic and pain numbing- these are all herbs many of us have in the kitchen or yard already.  If you have lung complaints, eucalyptus leaves can be added, or a few drops of its essential oils can add a lung-soothing aromatic to the bath.  Find a way to be intentional with your hygiene.  Do it for you body, because your body deserves your respect.
If you struggle with stress and sleep, both of these things can negatively impact your body in profound ways.  Prioritize YOU.  Sever your evening obligations and go to bed early because your body and brain deserve a good night’s sleep.  Dedicate 1 day per week to relaxing or being lazy- if that’s too drastic of a leap, dedicate 1 morning each week to sleeping in and having no agenda before noon. Take time for you.  For some people that looks like quiet alone time, meditation, reading, or sleep.  For others that might be something indulgent and stimulating, like exercise, cooking, working outdoors, or completing a project.  Anything goes, as long as it’s not increasing your stress or insomnia.
On the topic of stress, self advocation applies here as well.  It’s not just triggers that people need to stand up for, but stressors as well!  Learn to say “No” to people and be at peace with it.  You always have the right to decline.  I mean, there are some obscure, creative exceptions.  Like, when you get pulled over for speeding and the officer says “Can I see your license?” you probably shouldn’t say “No, thanks for asking though.”  Aside from certain scenarios, it’s generally healthy to exercise your “No” muscles.  Especially with friends and family, where it’s often the hardest.  Why?  Because caring for yourself and tending to your needs not only sets a healthy example of self-love to your loved ones, but when people see you respecting yourself, they become more inclined to respect you as well.  Saying “Yes” to everyone all the time isn’t healthy for anyone.  Period.