Friday, September 26, 2014



We had several nights of 22 degree temperatures early in September. Then record breaking hot, dry weeks after the early freeze.  Now, finally, we have rain. The highs are only supposed to be in the 60's. It's a great physical relief.

 Chickens searching for worms in the damp soil.

The animals seem delighted to be wet. 

Everyone is happy. 

This guy has been rubbing his face in the wet hay.


Dancing farm boys.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We're expecting a change in the weather and I want the bulk of cleaning up the garden duties behind me before we get more rain or cold weather. Last year we had snow in the late fall that stayed until spring and some of the garden clean up didn't get finished. I don't want to be surprised again. So I've been working in the garden all day. And tonight we are having a pantry dinner!

This pretty much consists of only items from the pantry and/ or the garden. It is usually a quick throw-together fare that allows me to get supper on the table fast for starving teenagers who simply must eat NOW hungry farm kids. 

So here it is: 

1 quart canned chicken (I pressure canned last fall)

1 can diced tomatoes (I have a couple of quarts I canned last fall too but I didn't want a whole quart of toms this time :)

2 cans black beans (I'm working on pressure canning beans. Right now I love the whole soaking-over-night-for -a-great-pot-of-beans thing so I haven't really ventured into pressure canning beans.....yet)

3 cups white rice (I only have white rice in the pantry right now- it stores almost indefinitely where brown rice tends to go's the oil in the brown rice I think)

onions and greens from the garden

Cook rice in 6 cups of water. Chop greens and add to pot of rice just at the end of the cooking/ steaming process so the greens can steam too.
Chop onions and add the rest of the ingredients. Add the juices of all the cans if you like a wet-ish finished product. If you like your throw together, one pot dinners on the dry side, drain all the cans before you drop the contents into the pot. (But save the juices for another meal.....added to home made soup maybe?)

Here's the finished product. You can add a side salad and/ or loaf of crusty bread along if you'd like.

For us, a dash of Parmesan cheese and we have a meal fit for starving teenagers who simply must eat NOW hungry farm kids.  

Just a quick side bar:   I LOVE this enamel cast iron pot! I got it at Costco about 2 years ago for a fraction of the price of the fancy French cookware ($239.95 vs $78.99!). It has been my go-to cooking pot almost everyday since I bought it. It's nice and big and the color is the best! I smile every time I get to use it....every time!

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm about to head out to the potato patch. Digging potatoes is one of my favorite homesteading chores. I love digging potatoes. It's like hunting for buried treasure. Plus, I could eat potatoes everyday. We often do. (My dad used to say it was my "heritage showing".)

This year we planted 3 types: an organic Russet type (I can't remember the name because I FORGOT TO WRITE IT DOWN IN MY GARDEN BOOK WHICH I HAVE JUST FOR THIS PURPOSE!), German Butterball, and Riley's Reds.

The way I dig potatoes is pretty simple: grab a big handful the dead/ dying vines and pull the vine out of the ground which pulls the attached 'taters out of the ground, too. Usually there are several left in the dirt but they are pretty easy to spot. Enter the shovel. But you have to be careful when digging with a shovel. A potato that has been accidentally sliced has lost its storage ability and needs to be eaten soon; usually within the week, or the potato will start to go bad. That's not too much of a hardship for my family.

These are German Butterballs. When sliced open, these are a pretty butter yellow hence the name "butterball". 
(I'm not sure where the "German" part comes from.) 

Potatoes are a very reliable vegetable crop. And here in NW Montana, it's hard to find a veggie that can actually produce an edible crop in our 90 day growing season. Across the blogosphere there have been many in depth discussions about the nutritional value of corn vs potatoes. Corn seems to have won the favor of many folks trying to provide their own food security. I guess it's because there are so many varieties and so many folks who just flat out love the taste of corn. (Bleck. I'm not a corn fan.) Corn has been an elusive crop for us. Our cool summer nights and wet springs make for rotting corn seed, poor germination rates and stunted corn maturation. But potatoes have been a dependable staple for our family. I literally plant them in the spring, keep them weeded in the first part of the growing season then harvest when the vines die back. We don't usually hill them and still have good production.

The only problem we have experienced so far has been with voles and pocket gophers.

Vole or gopher damage.

Sorry for the blurry pic. My little camera is old and starting to lose some of it's function. But you get the idea.

It was an all out battle against the tunneling creatures the first year we farmed here. We didn't want to use poison because our dogs accompany us into the garden. We'd trap a few and it seemed that more took their place. So now I just plant enough for all of pest and people. At least that's the plan until I can figure out how to get rid of them altogether. Maybe a cat?

Ooooo. The taker's lair! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I recently saw an article about the possibility of China processing some of the food sold here in the US supposedly because the price of the processing is lower in China than here. Processed chicken meat is one of those foods. So this year we are raising meat chickens for our freezer. We raised chickens solely for meat about 4 years ago. The experience had mixed results. 

In retrospect, I don't think we let them grow out as long as we should have. We ended up with small roasters and the food/ meat conversion ratio was pretty high; something like 6 lbs of food for every lb of meat produced. But because of the recent turn of events (IE; Chinese chickens at the super market), I was willing to try again. I had also decided to purchase the chicks mid- summer instead of early spring. Spring time around here is often cool and wet- potentially deadly for baby chickens. The chicks have to stay under lights in the garage for a prolonged period of time to ensure they are warm enough to survive and usually aren't moved out to the coop until sometime in June and only after they are completely feathered out.  Most layer chicks don't mature enough to start producing eggs until they are about 20-25 weeks old. We try to purchase layer chicks as early in the spring as we can get away with since it would be nice for the little hens to actually start laying eggs before winter shuts down their egg laying capacity. 

But we were buying meat chicks. Since these meat chicks were going into the freezer in about 8-10 weeks, I was't too concerned about racing against time to beat the winter months. So we purchased 25 little yellow fuzz-balls from Hoover's Hatchery in July.  They were only $1.40 a piece which was a pretty good deal since the feed stores in town were already out of their chicks and other mail order hatcheries wanted (sometimes) more than $2.00 a piece! Between shipping, handling and something called a "small order fee", we were still into these little guys for a little over $55 by the time they made it to our house. 

Cornish rock X roo at 5 weeks old almost completely feathered out. 

They all arrived healthy and happy and HUNGRY! Since they grow so fast, meat chickens rival teenage boys in their appetite. #20 of non-medicated starter feed and 3 weeks later they were feathered out and in the coop with the layer hens. 

 Several roos at 6 weeks of age. See the change in feathering in just one week from the above picture?

Now at 9 weeks they are huge. Early last week I weighed them. The average weight was 6.6 pounds. I weighed them yesterday and the average weight was 7.1. pounds. We plan to harvest them Monday at 69 days since hatch. Since the cutting/ freezing weight of the chicken is about 75% of the live weight, I'm guessing we'll have about 125 lbs. of chicken in the freezer for this next year! Yea!

 9 week old Cornish rock x roo next to 2 year old layer hens. 

That's one big chicken!

Friday, September 19, 2014

So, here I am after a 2 year hiatus (almost to the day). 

Cornish rock x roo 9 weeks old

What a better time to return to blogging than fall! It's been a good time off.

Onions and garlic drying on the north porch. 

This is my favorite time of year. The garden is over flowing, the animals are plump and ready for the freezer, fruit trees are heavy and dripping with apples and plums.....the perfect picture of the harvest months.....I wish! 

Yorkshire x gilt. She weighs almost #300!

This year we have had great successes and great failures like all homesteaders.

Provider green bush beans and Beefy Resilient Grex dry beans all drying down to use for seed in next year's garden.

The next several posts will highlight what has worked for us and what has been a failure. This is an important analysis for us in our constant pursuit of food security. 

Dairy steers cleaning up a little "training" treat of barley, corn and oats.