The mouse in the diapers

Folding diapers a couple nights ago, I picked up a diaper and shook it out.  What appeared to be a piece of bark or a large moth flung backward and landed on my shirt.  I’m not huge on insects and the cats have been known to bring in moths, so I was on the verge of freaking out.  A quick look down proved it was not tree bark or a moth, but actually a live mouse.  I commenced flinging my shirt out and flipped the mouse back onto the ground, where Jesse nabbed it and took it outside.  I *almost* panicked there for a moment.  Jesse said he saw Jojo pawing at the diaper pile earlier but then lost interest, so he figured she was just having fun in the diapers.  Dang cats.

A few weeks ago, I bought a bushel of apples and a bushel of pears.  The pears were finally ripe enough to use, so I ran them through the food saucer and started simmering them on the stove to reduce their liquid.  This should not suggest it was an easy process.  The pears were very juicy and my pot was not huge, so I had to keep waiting for the sauce to reduce in volume before I could add more pear mixture.  This whole process took many hours, but I was super excited for the end result so it was worth it.  I had just put the last batch of milled pears into the pot when it was time to leave for my birthday dinner (sushi!) so I put a lid on the pot and turned off the burner.

After we got home the mix was still hot, so I turned the burner back on to get it back up to simmering.  Pretty soon Mom mentioned there was a burned smell to the air, but some pears had splashed out earlier, so I wasn’t worried, just thought they were burning off.  Big mistake!  I had turned up the burner too high and had scortched the entire bottom of the pan, and if you’ve cooked often you’ll know that scortched flavor permeates every particle of the mix.  I was so pissed at myself for making such a rookie mistake!  And the killer is, that pear sauce was delicious under the scortched flavor!  Jesse chided me that I shouldn’t have tried to reduce it more, and that I should have just canned it like it was because we could have used it in smoothies…  *sigh*  Lesson learned, but still, that was probably almost 8 hours of work, literally down the drain.

The next day I made more marinara sauce because I am a glutton for punishment.  Ezra loves to help when he sees me get the food mill out, but usually he can’t quite turn the handle all the way around so this time I hit upon the idea of having him help me smoosh the tomatoes.

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While Mom and Jim were here we went to Gardner Village.  It’s this little boutique-type area, and they have these witches posted all around the shopping area.  There was a scavenger hunt to find certain witches, and you could take in the results to this bakery and get a cookie at $.35 instead of $.90!  I have to say, it was not really our thing.  I mean, I like Halloween but I don’t shop at boutiques and the $.55 is not a great incentive to come on down!  I’m glad we went so we could see what all the hubbub is about.  I hear they do something for the Christmas holiday as well.  Here are some photos of the witches we found:

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Ezra, ever the gentleman as we walked around

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While mom and Jim were here, we celebrated the October birthdays:

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new rabbit setup under the deck

new rabbit setup under the deck

I’m feeling less and less like our doe is going to kindle.  I put in a nesting box and filled it with hay, but she just seems like she’s eating all the hay and not really interested in the nesting aspect.  Of course, maybe I’ll go out there and be surprised.  But if after another five days there are no babies, she’s getting bred again.

I saw this image not too long ago:

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This is so valid!  Our hens are laying more than we can eat, so I’ve been selling some to my sister, and will try to sell some to my coworkers.  A part of me thinks that $3/dozen is high, and my mom sure gave me grief that I was charging my sister *anything*, let alone $3/dozen, and sure you can buy crappy factory-farmed eggs for much less, but the nutrient quality is so much higher with pastured hens.  You can read more on the subject here and here and here.

My point is, as a people, we’re willing to pay for a cup of coffee and not think twice, but we think we’re being held up when it comes to eggs or other farmed items.  It’s a weird mindset.

On completely other and perhaps TMI news, Ezra peed in the toilet for the first time!  I praised the heck out of him and he thought that was great, but then didn’t give me a repeat performance.  Perhaps this will be the beginning of potty training.  I definitely don’t want to pressure him, so I suppose we’ll just have to keep a weather eye for signs.

 

Theoretically pregnant doe

Oh hi there!

Oh hi there!

I’ve decided to learn to knit.  Nothing fancy, just a couple rows here and there.  Honestly, I bought a crochet kit first, but I could NOT figure that out from the book, and knitting seemed easier, so I went out the next day and bought a knitting kit, complete with book.  Let me tell you, thank goodness for YouTube!  I don’t know how anyone could learn the basics from a book.  The direction of how the yarn is supposed to go, and the motions of the needle, it made no sense to me when I was reading the book.  I’m much better watching someone do it via video.  So, I have been practicing with a really crappy quality thread, a scratchy acrylic yarn.  I bought some other yarn and I could have sworn it was wool or cashmere because it was so soft, but when I looked it was acrylic as well.  Huh.

I can go a couple rows, but then everything gets all confused and I think I drop some stiches and then it’s all jumbled.  Oh well.  I can’t be perfect right off the mark.

"Before" under the deck for the rabbits

“Before” under the deck for the rabbits

We finally moved all the rabbits under the deck.  It ended up working out quite nicely, because the hutch was originally created to be three-tiered and we were actually able to use it as such.  We didn’t have to hang the blue baby’s cage from the support beams after all.  I think they are all satisfied with the arrangement.  We have found that the water bottles almost all leak.  One was so bad we had to go out and get a different style, but I have a feeling we’ll have to replace the other bottles sooner rather than later.

theoretically pregnant doe

theoretically pregnant doe

We think the more mellow NZW may be pregnant.  She’s lying on her side more, and her nipples are showing more distinctly.  We’ll put in her nest box on the 21st, and hopefully less than a week after that she will kindle!  Of course, I did put my hand under her belly and felt nothing and I am supposed to feel kits by now, but I am completely new at this and she doesn’t like have her belly touched, so in truth it’s all a guessing game at this stage.  Pretty sure the other NZW is not pregnant because I never saw her lift, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and wait another couple weeks before we try to breed her again.  If she doesn’t lift soon, though, she’s going into the stew pot.  I’m not going to have unproductive stock just eating up feed.

chocolate buck

chocolate buck

I took the chocolate buck out the other day to trim his nails.  He didn’t love it, but took it better than I expected.

Jesse cooked one of the acorn squash in the crock pot the other night, and it was soooo good!  I added a bit of brown sugar and butter, but honestly I probably would have enjoyed it plain as well.

I canned up another batch of applesauce and it turned out so much better than the first batch!  I left the apple skins on in this batch, but I may remove them next time.  I did not add any extra sugar, because the whole point of this is to have a wholesome snack available.  Applesauce is so much more juicy when you don’t inadvertently throw out the apple juice!  I burned a little bit of it, but I don’t think it affected the taste.

new batch of applesauce

new batch of applesauce

Joline caught a mouse the other day and was playing with it outside.  Jesse ended up squishing its head accidentally, so we thought we’d see if the hens wanted it.  Did they ever!  The black hen ran over and snatched it up, and then the other girls thought she had something they’d want, so they chased her all over the yard until she finally managed to lose them.  From our vantage it looked like she was pecking and clawing at it, and at one point we thought we heard bones snapping.  Pretty soon she wandered back over and we didn’t see any evidence of the mouse any longer so we’re assuming she succeeded in eating it.  Chickens are omnivorous, after all.

Mom and Jim are coming in tonight to stay for awhile.  Excitement!  We have so many October birthdays, we are going to celebrate them all together.  Of course, I still haven’t got Jesse anything yet.  Decisions, decisions.

I have been thinking more and more about getting some archery lessons.  I think that would be a pretty neat skill to have.  And not like I’m all doomsday prepper or anything, but I do think making arrows would probably be easier than bullets when it comes down to it, and I image a bow can be a faithful weapon.  And, it’s old school!  I love that!

I went shopping the other day and wanted to pick up some more juice.  There was a sale on Welch’s White Grape and Cherry, and I thought that might make a nice change, but looking over the ingredients list changed my mind:

Welch's White Grape Cherry

Welch’s White Grape Cherry

Red 40!  Why the heck would they add an artificial color to a drink that has cherry juice in it?!  Especially a drink that boasts it is 100% juice with no added sugars or flavorings?  At the very least, if they felt the drink needed to be a reddish color, they could have added pomegranite juice, or raspberry juice, or something!  Needless to say, I did not buy this juice.

Ezra thanks me for this decision.

contemplative Ezra

contemplative Ezra

Fall round up

To start us off, here is a photo of Ezra after he woke up from a nap:

such a happy boy

such a happy boy

Seriously, those dimples!

small watermelon

small watermelon

larger watermelon

larger watermelon

our peach trees look great!

our peach trees look great!

the girls are always interested in the rabbit hutch area

the girls are always interested in the rabbit hutch area

beet

beet

Mister, checking out what Ezra is doing

Mister, checking out what Ezra is doing

squash harvest from the main squash garden bed

squash harvest from the main squash garden bed

This week starts off fall break for schools around here, so Jesse is getting some outside work done before he cracks down on his studies.  He harvested the squash from the squash bed, and many of them look pretty good.

We are also going to move the rabbit hutch under the deck, to get the rabbits out of the elements.  We are going to move the bucks to the lower shelf because they tend to pee all over the place, and the two NZW does to the top rack.  We will also be moving the blue doe under the deck as well, but we’ll probably end up hanging her cage from the deck support beams because there is no way to have her on the hutch shelf as well.

I’ve been handling the new doe more frequently than the white ones, but I could probably give her even more attention.  I’m still trying to decide if I want to give her a name or not.

I borrowed my MIL’s food mill the other day and ground some ripe tomatoes.  Let me tell you, IT WAS THE EASIEST METHOD OF TOMATOES I HAVE EVER TRIED.  I mean it, you don’t have to scald the tomatoes, or skin them, because the food mill does that work for you.  I still had to simmer them on the stove for quite some time to evaporate excess water, and then I went ahead and added dried onion, minced garlic, and Italian seasonings to make some marinara sauce.  I probably could have cooked it down father than I did, but I was pleased with the way the results look.

I next tried making applesauce and while it wasn’t an epic fail, I think I can do better next time.  You see, you must soften the apples before running through the food mill, so I filled up a huge stock pan with apples, and then filled the pan almost to the brim with water so that all the apples would be immersed.  What I should have done was just add a cup or two of water and let them steam in their own juics.  In the end I dumped out the remaining water with a good deal of apple juice mixed in.  The applesauce itself was very dry as an end result.  I was supposed to get it to just below boiling before I canned it up, but it was too dry.  I put quite a bit of white grape/peach juice to reconstitute it, and then I pressure canned it for probably 10 minutes longer than needed because I wanted the applesauce to have a more smooth texture, not quite so raw.  The jars looked pretty dry after they came out, but Ezra will still probably like them.  The next batch of apples I do, I am going to just core them and put them in the crock pot and let them cook down over night.  This should help retain their natural juices as well as give them a more smooth, cooked texture.  We’ll see.  I also have pears that will ripen in a couple weeks that I am going to make pear sauce with.  I hear it’s delicious.

Tomato, Tomahto

A few days ago, we decided to pick a lot of the tomatoes while green, and then clear out those tomato plants.  Here is our haul:

82 lbs of tomatoes

82 lbs of tomatoes

You read that right, 82 pounds!  There were a couple red/ripe tomatoes, but the vast majority are green.  It’s getting to feel like fall around here, so I figured if we took them off the vine, we can just wait for them  to ripen up more and then make more things with them.  Although, I’ve also heard about green tomato jelly, and green tomato pie, and fried green tomatoes…

Speaking of tomatoes, I hear there are these new-fangled things called food mills, or food strainers.  Apparently they are amazing at churning out tomato sauce and applesauce, and anything else soft-food-wise.

Victorio VKP250 Model 250 Food Strainer and Sauce Maker

Victorio VKP250 Model 250 Food Strainer and Sauce Maker

I must get one!  On the one hand, it’s the end of the season, but on the other hand, we have 82 lbs of ripening tomatoes to deal with.  And, I wouldn’t mind getting a bushel of apples and making some applesauce, either.

So, that was a few days ago.  A couple days after that we decided to tackle the remaining tomato beds.  Here are the “before” photos:

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008 Jesse came home earlier that day and he helped me out a bunch.  He did the heavy lifting and I cut off the green tomatoes.  Here are the “after” photos:

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We guesstimated that we pulled another 50 lbs of tomatoes from those vines.  Our tomato crops this year were excellent.  A small problem is we didn’t leave labels anywhere or create a garden diagram, so many of these tomatoes we have no idea what their strain is.  Oh well.  Maybe next year we’ll be more on the ball.

Jesse went through and removed a lot of the watering hoses.  I think we’re going to do a different layout with the garden, not so much actual garden beds, but more like long garden rows.

I have always wanted to have an orchard, and right now we have 2 peach trees, 2 pear trees, and an apple tree.  We decided to get another 3 apple trees, and then 2 plum trees from Summerstone Nursery.  I really like the idea of homemade fruit leather, and canning the fruits, and just everything about preservation.

To that end, Lowe’s is having their annual canning sale, where their remaining canning items are 50% off, so I went a little nuts and bought a bunch more jars and lids.  While we don’t have an actual use for them yet, I’m looking with an eye toward the future, and as any canner knows, this is a hella deal!

new canning stuff!

new canning stuff!

We cleaned off a couple shelves in the book room from a bookcase, and I started to stack our current canned goods.  You’ll see we have a fair amount of tomato sauce, and a couple jars of chicken stock.  Jesse also made some green salsa, or salsa verde, and you’ll also see a lonesome jar of beets.  Because really, who needs beets?  Blech!

canned goods

canned goods

I’ve also started a ginger bug again.  The first time I tried this, it didn’t turn out too well, but I watched another YouTube video, so hopefully this one goes better.

ginger bug, day two

ginger bug, day two

Our backyard mums and lavender have been blowing up.  I do so love fall!  I love the brisk air, and the fall colors.  I’m pretty sad that our fall lasts for only about three weeks and then suddenly it’s winter.  Lame.

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Our chickens have been doing a great job scratching through the turned out tomato beds.  We are very impressed with them; at the same time, they scratch up my flower garden beds, and I’m loving that aspect less.  But hey, they are equal-opportunity chickens.

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Mister and Jojo are enjoying the fall feel as well.  They keep us grounded on what’s important:  Food and loves.

Mister

Mister

 

Jojo

Jojo