Sunday, December 20, 2015

Family Christmas outing

Colorado has a lot of things to see and do.  So this month I decided to take advantage of our living here and have a year long staycation.  Every month we will do one outing.  I was inspired by a children's book The 12 days of Christmas in Colorado.  There are other versions for other states.

So this month was see the lights in Larimer Square in Denver.  We took the light rail and I think we all had a good time.
Jenn and Chris on the light rail

Indica and Rhiannon on the carousel at the Pavilion on the 16th St. Mall

Indica and Chris with one of the many cow statues in downtown Denver.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

DIY Vegetable stock

About $70 worth of stock if I bought it at my local grocery store.  

Yesterday Chris took 8 gallon bags of frozen vegetable odds and ends that would otherwise be trash/compost and put them in our huge stockpot and covered them with water where they simmered all day.

And I mean odds and ends.  Onion skins, carrot peels and ends, parsley stems, celery tops the paper from garlic, stems of mushrooms, apple cores the ends of tomatoes and the tops of leeks.  Some whole carrots and celery that were rubbery 'cause they hadn't been stored properly and mushrooms that were just this side of slimy.  Pretty much any vegetable that does not have a strong flavor (read cabbage, asparagus etc) went into Ziploc bags and into the freezer until we got tired of moving them when looking for ground beef.

When I got home from work I added a bottle of chardonnay (oaked - not our favorite to drink) a handful of mixed peppercorns and a few bay leaves.  We left it on low overnight - a bare simmer (if you have a pilot light on a gas stove that will be enough)  Like meat stock we don't boil, just simmer.

When I got home from taking the youngest to roller derby practice, Chris was ladeling strained stock into clean jars to pressure can. Each jar received a tsp of salt before going into the canner - just to enhance flavor.  All the directions say follow the times/pressure for meat stock - so 13lbs of pressure for 25 minutes for our altitude.  It took just under 2 hours (2 batches) to can 14 qts.

In the few years I have been canning stock I have had only one jar go bad and it was pretty obvious when I brought it upstairs from the pantry.  Mold floating on top told me to dump it.  Turned out that lid had never sealed so I tossed it also.

But stock is almost $5 a quart at the store so using a little common sense and some time is totally worth it. Oh and I will pay for 5 gallons of water from Denver Water.  Still a deal.

Friday, December 11, 2015

We named him Randy

This mule deer was bow hunted by our now 80 yr old neighbor.  

Flock troubles

I have been buying our chickens at the same feed store since we started a flock again in Colorado.  Up until this year we have had great success with breeds chosen - the breed, coloring, health and sex has been exactly what we ordered for any pullets purchased.

But this year 1/2 of our birds died before reaching maturity - for random and unknown causes.  With this mortality rate I decided against the expensive Black Copper Marans and Olive Eggers.

Our Americanas seem to be Easter Eggers (a hybrid w/ one blue egg laying parent breed) - the colors we received, although beautiful, are not colors of a true breed.  At least one of our Buckeyes looks like a Rhode Island red (their combs are different).

And our partridge cochin is a rooster.  He is beautiful, treats the hens well - herding and making sure they all get food.  And loud when he crows.

We suspected it when his feathers did not come in brown with a penciled pattern, but at 6 months he had yet to make any identifying calls.  Now at 8 months he proved to just be a late bloomer.  We are disappointed - more that we can't keep a male to guard the henhouse in city limits than anything else.  But although excessively barking dogs are allowed, crowing roosters are not.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Canning Bloody Mary Mix

One did break in the pressure canner.  Also, hot sauce fermenting on the right.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thinking out loud (Rambling) about feed options

With the new flock of hens we had been purchasing whole grain feed from a friend that bought it by the pallet from a farmer just over the border in Nebraska.  It was organic with no corn or soy.  We fermented it in a 3 jar rotation, which smelled faintly funny (Chris and Indica would say bad), but the hens LOVED it.  During the hotter weeks of summer I didn't ferment, and the hens are quieter if we fed them 6 cups a day instead of the 4 fermented cups. (Read about why this is here)
Premixed whole grain means $$$

Alas our friends decided not to reorder feed, so we are back at pre-bagged pellets from the local feed store.

The price is way easier on the budget 22¢/lb vs 64¢/lb.  But as we know from our own food, cheaper does not mean quality.

In desperation I bought a bag of COB (corn oats barley) to ferment instead of 1/2 of the pelleted feed.  But even though the fermenting is nearly odorless, this is SOO not the answer.
It is geared towards horses for one. And as much as hens like it, it seems to decrease their egg laying. (for 2)

There is a feed company from Bellingham, WA called Scratch and Peck that would do the trick, but both distance (1,400 miles) and price ($1.36/lb) makes it less attractive.  Mixing it 1/2 & 1/2 would bring the price down (79¢/lb) or even 1/3 whole grain to 2/3 commercial. (60¢/lb).  But that doesn't address distance.  But if we mixed it and fermented the commercial pellets also (in in the basement instead of the kitchen counter), a possibility.  Scratch and Peck may be available in 50# bags locally according to the website, so I will check that out.

And should I be concerned about distance?  Sure Purina and Agland plants are in Colorado, but where do their grains come from to make the pellets?  Subsidised GMO corn and soy for sure.  But truly I have not done any research on this.
Info from the Elliot homestead blog

What about mixing our own?

The 2013 numbers from the Elliot Homestead blog were $1.07/lb for their organic feed mix.
The links for purchase of the grains were Amazon.  But this may be the best option until we can grow some of our own.

And really, why am I worrying about this anyway?  Maybe like everything else in the quest for more self sufficiently I should start small.  Say, for instance, planting sunflowers for seed along the fence both here and at the garden. Striving to keep the squirrels off of them may be all I can handle this year.