Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas

With no immediate family in the area, Christmas has become an official jammie day.  But livestock still needs to be fed.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Continued cold

The snow is still here.  As are the single digit temperatures.  This may seem normal, but here it is not.  Snow usually lasts 1 day on the roads and sidewalks, and is all but gone within 2 - the temps having returned to the 40's our higher by then.
I brought Gary the rooster inside this morning.  The cold has really affected his ability to walk, and he does not seem to be able to fluff out his feathers to keep as warm as the hens.  So he is ensconced under the table that holds our Christmas tree until it warms up a bit.  He wool probably get a bath before then as his grooming has also suffered.
Yeah, he's almost a pet.  To scrawny to eat, and more than a little pathetic.  But a great introduction to people who have never seen a chicken up close as he is so calm and friendly.
Update: Before the new year, Gary died quietly one night.   

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

cold snap musings

Last night and today were the longest consistent snowfall I have seen since we moved to Colorado.  It is also the first time 60 degree weather is not forecast for a day or two after said snow.  Instead I am preparing for -9 tonight.  The hens have all the shutters on their coop shut and their doorway is blocked.  The heat lamp will be on until the temps go back above freezing.  Extra straw is in the nest boxes and on the floor.  All the rabbit hutches, also filled with extra straw, are wrapped to some extent or another.  Yeti's wooden sides are on and a burlap bag is hanging over the doors.  Peppers and Luna both have floor rugs draped over the open sides of their abodes.  The 6 young rabbits have an unused comforter over their converted chicken tractor.  Indica changed all the water bottles before dinner, although they are already slushy.

I would love to convert the shop into a barn.  I imagine it often, especially when my fingers are sticking to the cold locks of each hutch.  The shop's 11x11 floor could easily house all our livestock, plus food and bedding.  Rabbit hutches would hang on the east wall.  2/3 outside and 1/3 inside with a "doggy door" to keep some of the cold out.  The worm bin would be below on the outside, removable trays on the inside.  Both a heat lamp and a fan would be hanging from the ceiling.  There would be nest boxes and roosts for the hens.  And running water.  There would be 3 small stalls.  One for feed and straw.  And 2 for a couple mini mancha does. 

The fact that we need the shop to be a shop hinders this fantasy of mine.

Why can't I just get giddy about a Coach purse like every other woman I know?


Sunday, December 1, 2013

What a girl wants

I've always said that if my husband bought me a diamond I would be annoyed 'cause I'd rather have a greenhouse.
I guess he was listening.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our urban farm is now owned by us

Our landlord was pretty awesome, as landlords go.  She will be on our Christmas Card list for eternity.  But today we signed all the paperwork making us home owners again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Another step

When Chris and I first met I was a sous chef at a small French restaurant.  One of our specialties was lapin with dijon and tarragon.  Cooking something in mustard sauce became a running joke throughout our relationship.  In our minds we offered up dogs, cats and occasionally small children too this rich wine and butter concoction.

Today, under the watchful eye of our friend's grandfather, we processed the first litter of rabbits.  Turns out that while I have been at work, Chris has been watching YouTube and reading up on this part of raising small animals for meat.  Actually, he admitted, it was no difference than the squirrel and 'possom of his youth. 

Each rabbit took about 15 minutes and was much less mess than a chicken.  Our friends took one home, two went into the freezer and the final one was grilled and dressed with the now infamous sauce.
 
It was delicious.  

And Rhiannon happily ate four "drumsticks".

Thursday, October 3, 2013

For good luck in the coming year

We made fruitcake.  This is not your grandma's fruitcake.  Dried pineapple, papaya, large flakes of coconut - not a artificially colored candied cherry in sight. 
We all sorted in the chopped fruit - to ensure a bountiful harvest one legend said.  But does it count if none of the fruit is from this year's?
Anyway, one loaf has already been devoured, the second is in the freezer, the third is being liberally based with rum.  Lots of rum.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New litter

Looks to be 5 or 6.  They all seem well, but although today is in the 70's - Friday is forecast to be in the 20's.  We do not want bunnysicles.

We are open to suggestions.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What happened to September?


The season has changed.  Chris and I pulled up the roma tomato plants this morning bringing home both the green and red fruits.  Interestingly the Heatwave tomatoes, which we chose for there ability to flower and produce when the weather is too hot for the other tomatoes, are still growing strong.  We had quite a few plants of various heirlooms this year give up after only 1 or 2 ripened fruits (black krim, mr stripey, cherokee green) and our brandywines are large and uniformly unripe, the plants still vigorous even in the cooling weather.  Green tomato pickles are in our future I suspect.

Some of our peppers are alternately scorched or scabby - and others are perfect.  The chilis are still going strong.  Yellow squash is still trying to produce, despite the powdery mildew covering the leaves.

Rhiannon and I picked 4 ripe Long Island Cheese squash this weekend, the vines were wilted and ghostly looking.  Indica's Flat White pumpkin is still vigorous in its attempt to take over the hill it was planted on.  She has picked 2 pumpkins so far - there may be more in the sea of green leaves covering 1/3 of our Ppatch garden.

With the 2 green Long Island Cheese we found I took a page from The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and made green pumpkin pie filling.  The squash was peeled, seeded and sliced thin and tossed with a mixture of sugar and spiced usually reserved for apple pie.  This was then frozen for later as Rhiannon & I are only on The Banks of Plum Creek and still have another book to go before getting to the chapter about said pie.  We will bake it then.

The rabbits are ready to be processed, but Chris and I have decided to wait another couple weeks to let them get a little larger before butchering.  Luna should kindle any day now with her new litter.

The hens are all laying now.  The new Amerucana's eggs are extra large, a couple have had double yolks.  The Welsumer, with its dark brown shells, are also extra large.  But I realized we have no white egg layers.  Rhiannon's silver Campine was found dead of unknown causes the other day.  She was saddened, but stoic, admitting that the chicks she purchased are somewhere in the ambiguous area between pets and livestock in her mind.

There are 20 quarts of Chicken stock along with 12 pints of apple butter in the cupboard.  Our 7 cu ft freezer is 1/2 full with whole tomatoes awaiting the colder days of November to be canned.

Two of the four $5 apple trees in the Ppatch survived the summer - we don't know yet about the 2 rhubarb plants Mom brought us from MN.  Both fruit trees I got for my birthday survived, although we will move one in the spring to a better spot.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Playing catch up

Before:
A refrigerator with jars of chicken stock.
Half a bag of small hard apples
2 quarts of  applesauce that still has skins in it
a gallon or so of various chilis

After:
20 quarts of chicken stock
12 pints of apple butter
4 quarts of fermenting hot sauce

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homemade hot sauce

I made a mild hot sauce last year using this recipe.  It turned out so good that I am doing it again this year.
orange habanero chilies with garlic & yellow cherry tomatoes

Friday, August 30, 2013

Today at the P patch

yellow squash, green beans, bell peppers, country gentleman sweet corn, carrots from saved seed and Cheddar cauliflower
Basil and tomato
5 kinds of chilies, pimento and Italian stuffing pepper

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It's a long story

The young rabbits are just over a month old, so I was very surprised when Indica found a new kit lying alone and cold on the wire floor of Luna's cage.

So I did what any neophyte urban farmer would do.

I Googled it.

Turns out that rabbits have horned ovaries and since eggs are released only after being with a buck, they can actually carry 2 pregnancies simultaneously.  Not only that, but kindling different kits from the same litter can be hours or even days apart.

So let's back up.

While the girls and I were in Minnesota last month, Chris called to say he found a litter of small skeletons in the hutch that Luna (our doe) had originally been ensconced.  I had swapped her with Yeti as her due date loomed, not wanting her to kindle in the loft.  The platform is unreachable by us and has no barrier to keep the kits from falling out.

Disappointed I told the girls that the first litter had died.  Our stoic children only asked if we would breed them again.

Chris had bred them after cleaning the hutch (he had to take off the roof), but forgot to take the nesting box in Luna's hutch.

Then a couple days later, in said nesting box, a litter was born.

Not knowing about the horned ovaries, we decided that Luna had been pregnant when we got her, and must have kindled before we bred her.

Back to today.  The kit was cold and did not seem to be breathing, but the rabbit site said not to assume a cold kit is dead.  Having no fur they are prone to hypothermia, and can be fine if warmed.  Following the directions I held the kit in a cup of warm water, careful not to dunk its head.  Then I wrapped it in a small warm towel and used a hairdryer to keep the towel warm until the kit was warm and dry.

The directions said to place the warm kit back with the litter.  

But there was no other litter mates.

So I put the nest box back in the hutch and filled it with nesting material, covering the still limp kit.

At this point the larger bunnies needed a new home.  I did not want them crushing the new kit, or picking on it.  They have been eating pellets and greens for over a week now, but all of our hutches are full.


Again, let's back up.  Luckily, although Chris's friend had picked up his hens a couple weeks ago, he left his portable coop until an unknown future date.  After sliding some 1x2 cage wire we had laying around underneath the small coop out was ready for occupants.












But after all this, I don't expect the kit to live.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Making sauerkraut

Indica is slicing, and Rhiannon is, well, squashing the garden fresh cabbage with salt.  Two containers are now sitting in the basement kitchen fermenting.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fair photos, day 1

Rhiannon's favorite stairs at the Western Livestock Complex.
Goat Demonstration with Broken Shovels Farm.  This was my only must see.

I can take this off my bucket list

Washing (and blow drying) Snowball (and Chocolate) for show at the Denver county fair.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bees like corn

The air in the corn "field" is abuzz with activity.  Each tassel has at least a dozen workers, their legs mined with yellow pollen, swarming drunkenly.  They don't even notice me pushing through the stalks to weed.

Chris in the backyard

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Beginning of harvest

There is a gallon ziploc bag in our freezer.  Every day or so a few more roma tomatoes are placed in it to wait until the weather cools.  There are peppers sliced and also in the freezer - hopefully chili and sweet are properly separated (was that a sweet banana or a hot banana?)  The known chili peppers are hanging from a clothesline hung in the office, drying.  Bush beans are easily blanched and frozen by the handful.  

I need to look up a crocked sauerkraut recipe.  We now have 2 beautiful heads of green cabbage with more on the way.

But what I am happiest about is we have harvested more summer squash (yes zucchini) than ever before.  So far, a dozen, mostly picked small. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My new favorite backyard meal

Complete with a homebrew.

lack of follow thru

It is not like there is nothing going on around here.

Indica's white pumpkin is trying to invade the rest of the garden
But sitting at the desk on the laptop is the last place I want to be these days.  The early morning is spent at the Ppatch, battling (in vain, it seems most days) the bind weed and other irritating plants
that seem to be growing faster than any of our vegetables.    I walk, as Chris is at work and Riley needs a walk anyway, and the six blocks or so takes some of the time.  And then I can only stay an hour or so, as the coffee I poured myself before venturing out has me wishing the city put in an outhouse.  In any case, I usually have to work and need to get home to shower before biking in.


They no longer look like naked mole rats
Once home the livestock must be fed and well watered before the heat of the day sets in.  The weeds I did pull are spread between the poultry and rabbits - with the best and tastiest going to Luna.  Her 4 kits (short for kittens - who knew?  Baby rabbits are not bunnies) are starting to open their eyes and are moving around instead of sleeping all day in a tiny white pile of ears and noses.  Their fur is white so far.  Mostly they are left alone by their mother which did send me to Google in a panic.  Only to find out that mother rabbits avoid their young except during the nightly feeding or 2.  Apparently this is so predators are less likely to find the nest of defenseless snacks.

If I have time then the sprinkler is put over various areas, but usually I don't and waterings are sporatic.  By the time Chris gets home the heat of the day has set in and he and the girls prefer inside in front of the fans.  

The quail are laying eggs in a clutch that I suspect will not hatch.  At the end of the month I will toss all of them into the bottom of a new garden bed to be covered with ALOT of compost.

The pullets have started laying, all except the silkie - who turned out to be a cockrel.  He awoke me before dawn yesterday.  The consequence of which that I stomped out to the chicken yard in my bathrobe, sans shoes or glasses and stuck him in a cat carrier.  He may be dinner tonight.  My only thought before going back to bed (after a foot wash) was that I hope the silkie I sold at the poultry swap in June was a pullet - I had completely forgotten that they were sold as a straight run.

There has been some egregious failings on my part.  I have killed most of my potatoes.  One just never quite got watered well enough at the Ppatch.  At home, desperate to hill them up, but having no soil, I used chicken bedding that I convinced myself had been composted well enough.  It hadn't and with in 24 hours all of them were cooked.  One of the apple trees never got planted, and many of the flowers my darling brought home are still sitting forlornly in their pots.  I forget to water the Jerusalem artichokes and raspberries regularly.  I never planted kohlrabi or sweet potato.  Argh.


But I have had a lovely Mr. Stripey tomato and fresh basil (the few that got planted are HUGE) pizza on homemade wheat crust.  We continue to harvest the swiss chard and kale, who have just enough shade to keep them from bolting.  Most of the celery is thriving.  I will have yellow bush beans with dinner tonight.  I even (miracle of miracles) have picked more zucchini than ever in my history of gardening (less than a dozen - but my previous record was 5).  The morning glories at the Ppatch are going up their trellis instead of attacking all plants around them - Chris and I have kept up with pulling the starts that are not where we want them.  The cabbage and cauliflower look good, and I continue to be hopeful about the brussels sprouts.

So all in all things are well. 


Friday, July 26, 2013

Alternative Transportation

Chris has been gone since Monday, taking the van with him.

Having a bike as my only transportation other that my feet changes things.  It has been a long time since the two of us grocery shopped with backpack and duffle bags walking a couple miles after dark.  In college errands were done in a plotted circle according to bus routes and times.

I only have myself to be concerned with now and that, of course, makes things easier.  Riley is the only one at home while I am commuting.  Monday and Tuesday, both, I made a trip to Home Depot on my way home.  This doubled the mileage for me.  I also stopped at the local farmers market, since I had the time on Tuesday, in the end getting home nearly 2 hours later than usual. Today errands that would have taken 20 minutes by car, stretched out to over 60.

But it was nice.




Friday, July 12, 2013

the beginning of the end

This is Hallie's Comet.

Or as yelled when she is in the strawberries - Hallie.

She is the reason the hens are no longer free range.  All of the other hens stayed out, initially of any fenced or raised area (i.e. the strawberries, potato, celery, cucumber and flower beds)  But no fence keeps her out and eventually others follow.  When chased out, she immediately tries to skirt around me back in.

It reminds me, fondly, of a young cousin of mine who didn't listen too well when my Dad would tell her to stay out of the cow pen, pig pen, oak tree etc.

Hallie is a golden comet hen.


Golden Comets are a cross between a Rhode Island rooster and a White Plymoth Rock hen, although some hatcheries use New Hampshire Roosters instead of Rhode Island Reds OR They use a White Leghorn Hen instead of a White Rock.  This is the chicken version of an F1 hybrid plant.  I got her 'cause I had never heard of them before.  But I have since learned they are known by other names (Red Star, Comets, Golden Sex Link, Isa Brown & Red Sex Link)

But what makes this Golden Comet different for us is that she is the only one of the newly laying pullets that has a name.   

The hens are moving even further into livestock status.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Overwhelmed

 Now that Chris has been working at the local garden center for a few weeks now, I am used to him bringing home a plant or two destined for the trash heap on a regular basis.  But yesterday he brought home an entire van full of root-bound annuals.  As is, in their pots, they were turning brown and dying and the boss said get them out of here.

Some I am thrilled to have, 2+ flats of french marigolds.  Something has been eating the leaves of all the marigold seedlings at our Ppatch and I
had asked him to bring me a six pack or two to replace them.  (Really, what insect eats Marigolds?)  And all of the flowers will be great in the yet unattractive perennial bed also at the Ppatch.

But the time!  While the girls are gone I have plans to finish a table, fix the front steps, rewire Indica's room, etc.  But all I can see in our future is planting.  And more planting.

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth but I feel faint at the thought of it.

But I am thrilled.  I almost never buy flowers, preferring to spend our limited budget on plants I can eat.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Manual Labor

Mom and Bob thank you.  The Ppatch looks 100% better.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We have a pullet egg!

Lower left corner - smaller than the rest.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trendy vegetables

"Right now, kale is the trendy kid with an ironic tattoo, skinny jeans, and a fauxhawk, and I kind of want to push him down the stairs.  The second anyone describes a vegetable as a 'superfood,' it goes into my own personal time-out corner."
Amanda Cohen, owner & chef of Dirt Candy in NYC
I still love my kale, trendy or not

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New additions

Luna - New Zealand doe
Gary, the Polish Crested Rooster and his chief tormentor Snowball
Yeti - New Zealand buck