Monday, May 30, 2016

Memories of High School Biology Class

I have always marveled at the intricacies of animals and how they work...both in disposition and mechanic's.
Anyone who has see a horse gallop across a field has to be amazed at the way their muscles work. Or watching bulls fight and tear out fencing without a backward glance. A chicken laying an egg, duckling knowing how to swim at hatching. Miracles all.

Now what has this got to do with biology class you ask?

Snapping turtles!

We have one or maybe two in our pond, a risk if our ducks ever find the pond so we intend to eliminate the problem if we can. Our neighbor has the same problem and he has ducks on his pond. (One of our Cayuga drakes with his mother's Pekin duck have hatched 7.)

We got a knock on the door yesterday and it was Jim. He had something for us, yeppers....a 35 pound freshly killed Snapper!

I had seen photos and actually just seen my first live Snapping Turtle on the way to grocery shop that morning, the males go from pond to pond at this time of year.

Now Jim said it was dead but as I looked at it the legs kept moving, the tail was lashing back and forth and the claws were clenching. Are you sure its dead I asked? He turned it over and showed me the heads shots...Yes it had to be dead.

Ralph looked at me and said: "Well?"

We thanked Jim......gathered my knives and some stainless bowls and took the Turtle, still lashing its tail, down to the workshop. Do you remember dissecting frogs?

Cleaning this turtle brought back all those memories....and a real need for Mr. Shostal the best Biology teacher ever!
Nothing is simple with a turtle.

Anyway I got to work, when we had first discussed trying Snapping turtle I had visited Youtube and watched several quite good videos about them. I knew I had to remove the Plastron or belly plate first and that was quite straightforward except for the continual movement of the muscles. That was just plain weird!

Ralph helped and kept laughing as a part would move and surprise me! He would hold things that needed to be skinned or removed. It went well over all but the tail was still twitching even when the meat was parted out and soaking in clean, cold water with salt.

We soaked the meat overnight in a light brine and  in the morning I washed and rinsed it, trimming and sorting it. 12 pounds of very useful meat...we hoped.

I packaged what we would freeze and kept out a mix of the meat to try for supper. There is very white meat, medium dark and quite dark, they say 11 flavors.....hummmn?

The meat went into a ziplock bag and I added buttermilk, it soaked all day. Then I dredged it in a flour, spice mixture with smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

Since Ralph and I are trying to use less oils and cut down on fats I baked it.

It was very good, not tender tender, it has a bit of al dente to it but we were very pleased. The flavor is uniquely turtle. It DOES not taste like chicken!

So overall our science experiment has been an success, we have found  a meat source to add more variety to our diet. I am looking up things you can do with turtle shell and of course finding more recipes for the meat.

Sometimes you have to put aside misconceptions about food and we are glad we did. This is a good meat and it takes predators out of the pond.

Take care and be brave!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 24th Photo Tour

Well the rain has eased off a bit and we have  been quite busy...isn't everyone at this time of year where everything is bursting with new life and growth. I feel sorry for anyone who does not  have or take the time to really look at things in spring.

 Barn Swallow's are nesting all through the Tobacco barn and they are so busy rebuilding their nests and catching insects. The farm is filled with their happy and conversational song!

 The introduction of our chickens and turkey's has given them such a wealth of new building material for finishing touches.

 These little sparrows are called Chipping Sparrows and are everywhere, tiny, about the size of a wren and they are fearless. They also have a huge beautiful song.

 The hay came down yesterday after long discussion and many many looks at Accuweather's forecast. The neighbor who plowed for us is able to make use of this first cut. It was way heavier than any of us expected and is a wonderful blend of clover, orchard grass and a bit or Brome grass. It is just a little bit in bloom so there will be less volume and tonnage but more nutrition.

 The finished hay field.

 Swallows dicussing something, in the evening the often sit on this section of fence just a bit away from the house and chatter, like a couple over evening coffee.

The ducks found the new cut  hay to be a banquet of fresh bits to eat and spent a lot of time before bed wading through the hay swaths.

Today we hope the gardens will have dried out enough to work in, I have a lot of weeding to do around the fava beans and the garlic. 

Ralph is working on planting the perennial herbs.

Life is simply wonderful!

God Bless you all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rain Delay

One thing about a new place is learning about the weather. So far we have found out we can actually have real winter storms with good snow cover, the wind is predominately from the west, the land gets dry very quickly and it needs rain.

Spike taking shelter in the workshop while Ralph dried tools.

Well we have also learned we could have got the plants into the garden earlier for the most part and will do that next year. We also learned that once it starts raining it takes time for the rain cycle to stop long enough to get back into the garden.

The Carola Potatoes are doing exceptionally well and are beautiful plants and flowers. In fact all the potatoes are managing the weather well. The field was in hay for more than 20 years and needs more organic matter but this is a good start.

Carola potatoes in bloom

We have spread old hay the chickens have raked and scratched through between the rows  in the east garden. The Sweet Lorane Fava beans are blooming well and there are lots of bees on the flowers so we are hopeful. The peas are a bit slow for some reason but the lettuce is feeding us nicely....and the Buff's seem to enjoy it but not do too  much damage. 

We had laid down the old hay in the big alleyway in the front of the chicken house inside the tobacco barn in the cold of winter. Then as the chickens went through it we put down more. It gave them something to scratch and its now lovely have broken up mulch that we will let rot all summer and work in this fall.

Today I am catching up on filing and Ralph is working on a New install of Linux Rosa on his laptop.

It is raining again.

Take care all
and God Bless.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Trading things

Just a short update....we have had an unforeseen delay on the arrival of the sheep. The grass is high and lush. The sheep paddock area is too steep to cut for hay so what to do with it.
Trade for Strawberries and real, warm out of the cow MILK!
Our neighbor has a Jersey Cow and two Dutch Belted cows and a Jersey steer, his grass is short and so it was a match.
We get to have really wonderful milk and I have been processing strawberries. Sun ripened strawberries for snacks and jam. The grass trade is good for both outfits. How lucky we are to have something we can trade for something we are excited to have.
This is what I saw out the back door this morning. Bucolic!

I have to admit it is nice to see stock using up that grass. They have been rambling around the new field all day and as cows do, taking a comfortable afternoon ruminate.

We had strawberries!

And the one chick...well he is fun!

God Bless you all....

Friday, May 13, 2016

Feisty.....fearless and a tiny fluffball

Well our hatching is going strangely. All but one of the turkey hens have gone broody. One died from it she simply refused to come out and drink or eat. We took her out to see if she would and she did not stay out even to drink water in front of her. We found her asleep in her nest. It was very sad and I felt so frustrated. Information I have read says some become obsessed and she was.

Ralph has built very nice nest boxes and a duck took over one. We thought we were ready and for one maybe two broody turkeys it would have been fine. Nothing we researched said (A) they would lay so young  (B) Lay prolifically at 5 to 6 eggs a week or (C) ALL go broody at  once

Anyway we are learning. We have about 6 days before we know if they are going to be successful......with poults.

One turkey hen hatched a chick. Chickens take 21 days.....turkeys 29 days so she ignored it but wasn't mean to it but she wouldn't take it our to feed it.

We gave it to a broody hen who loved it but got confused about the chick and her eggs. Sigh....we kept putting the chick back and she would tuck it under her feathers carefully and then it would get out again.

It was fine though and is a tiny golden chick.

The day before yesterday we were expecting a heavy thunder storm so Ralph went out to the workshop to put the Grillo inside.

I was doing dishes and he came in with his dreaded "Fiona, we have a problem" line!

He was holding the chick. He had found it out almost to the Oak tree and it was peeping feircely.

Oh grief I thought.

Anyway the little thing took right to water and food, I would tap the tabletop by food and it would peck  like crazy...water was much the same way. What to do with one tiny chick. Humn. Well we have Bio-dome to start plants and they are currently empty.

This is what they look like set up for germination, I took out the plug trays.

The table still had the heated plant mat on it as we are germinating some more herbs....perfect match.  We put shavings in the bottom tray with water and feed and an old t shirt of mine the chick had pooped on. It rules the roost for sure and is doing really well. We find it perched on top of the rolled T shirt surveying his kingdom.

So here I am, technically a hen with one chick!

Can you resist this adorableness! I mean really!!!

So continue our adventures. By the way the cat sleeps beside the biodome and the chick will peck the side and the cat flies off the table as if the very devil was after her!

God Bless you all and enjoy all the tiny surprise's you get in life!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Just to make you laugh

 Ralph having a discussion with one of the Buckeye hens

I know our Turkey's are this smart.

So appropriate considering we live in the home State of Kentucky Fried Chicken!

This is Ralph's favorite cartoon and I am kinda partial to it as well!

I hope these  made you smile and think of the fun side of all the work we do having small or large livestock!

Be safe and enjoy the spring and all it has to offer.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Peanuts......Home grown.

One thing we plan on growing a lot of this year, now we have room, is Peanuts.
We tried them for the first time in New Castle. We did not have enough room for a lot of them but we tried three Varieties:
Carwhile's White, Schronce's Deep Black and Tennessee Red Valencia.

We ended up with about 10 pounds of real, chemical free home grown snacks. I learned a lot form growing them and I still have to get better at roasting them!

So here is how it went:

Ralph asked me if I wanted to grow peanuts one evening....I looked at him like he was "Nuts". Peanuts, they take way to long and must be really difficult to grow! He replied to me...we live in Virginia...some of the best peanut growing land in the USA!

So we ordered from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. The following information is from their catalog.

Carwhile's Virginia

120 days. [Introduced 1989 by SESE.] Family heirloom from SW Virginia since 1910. Grown by Frank Carwile for over 75 years since he was given this peanut by a traveler when he was 8 years old. He later tried other varieties but found none with a better flavor. 2-4 seeds per pod. Plants have average disease resistance but excellent production and drought resistance.

Schronce's Deep Black

110 days. [Selected since 1980 by NC gardener Gordon Schronce. Seedstock sent by his son Arty.] Black peanut selected for larger seeds with darker (violet-black) skins than Carolina Black and 3-4 seeds per pod. Very productive. Gordon’s favorite way to serve these is to fry up a mix of black and red peanuts in canola oil.
An interesting link about these Black peanuts.

Tennessee Red Valencia

(Valencia Tennessee Red) 110 days. [Pre-1930] Rich, sweet peanuts with red skins. 2-3 seeds/pod. Easy to grow without hilling, even in clay soils. An early variety for those who have trouble maturing Virginia-type peanuts.

It was weird breaking open the peanuts and planting them...first I had to try one...NOT good....they do need roasting!

Ralph prepared a set of three raised rows.

Then we planted them. Not too deep and firmly pressed into the new turned soil.  You can plant them in the hull but it is faster to remove it. Be careful not to remove the paperey husk though. Plant the seeds about 1 inch deep and water weekly.

 Peanuts need full sun. If you have heavy soil, ensure good drainage by working in enough organic matter to make it loose, we had amended this area with lawn clippings and used potting soil.

 The Schronce's Black ready to plant.

 Tennessee Red Valencia sprouting.

 Grass clipping mulch added after the peanuts had sprouted. You can  just see the row of Carwhile's poking up through the soil.

 A healthy young peanut plant. They look a lot like Alfalfa at this stage.

 They grew quite quickly and I was forever out there marveling that we were growing peanuts! Ralph says I am easily amused...

 We planted them on May 29th and this photo was taken on June the 13th.

 June can see a volunteer squash to the right.

 June 25th...just short of a month old. They have small yellow flowers a bit like a violet. They flower at the base of the plant. The honey bees loved them.

 July 8th...They did not get really tall. They did get bushier though. So did the crazy squash!

 August the 3rd. Squash issues but the shade from them seemed to ease the heat stress on the peanut plants, they did not wilt in the heat of afternoon.

 We had added straw mulch at this point to help retain moisture as the weather had turned dry. The peanuts did not like town water and whatever chemicals are in it. They would look pale for a couple of days after a watering with the treated water so we aired buckets of water and hand watered them.

 October 19th we harvested, there was a severe frost warning.
Ideally the tops should have dried on their own. However you can see we had peanuts!

 After pulling them up we set them in the shed to air dry and cure for two weeks.

Here is the 2014 peanut crop. A good size we thought for our first attempt. About 10 pounds.

Now we are finally on our farm and have the room to grow lots of these wonderful plants. They are a healthy snack and we think will be well suited to our vision of growing our own food. This year we are growing the varieties above plus two new additions:

Information from Southern Exposure where we got the seed.

Carolina Black Peanut 

110 days. [Introduced 1999 by SESE from seed sent by Derek Morris.] One of the varieties grown during the 1800s was the African peanut (also known as the N. Carolina peanut). It may have been a black peanut, possibly the same as ‘Carolina Black.’ According to food historian William Woys Weaver, the black peanut may have been used as a substitute for Black Bambarra (African ground nut) by the black community. Black Bambarra is important in African folk medicine as an aphrodisiac. The N. Carolina climate won’t support black Bambarra, but black pea- nuts grow there without difficulty. Carolina Black produces sweet-tasting, black-skinned peanuts that are slightly larger than Spanish peanuts. 2-3 seeds/ pod

Texas Red and White peanut

 110 days. [Peanut said to have been developed in the school colors by a Texas university for selling at football games. Seed given to Ron Thuma by friends in Andover, KS.] Seeds have lovely red-and-white streaked skins. 2-4 seeds/pod, compact 3-ft. plants grow well in heavy clay soil.

It is always a plus when the food you grow is pretty to look at and tastes marvelous. I will take you through the harvesting and roasting steps for the 2016 peanut adventures this fall, God willing and we get a good crop. 
Life is so full of marvelous things don't be afraid of trying things you have not done before. 

God Bless and be safe!