Take that, spam bots!

Seriously, comment spam bots are super annoying.  For a brief moment I had this blog set up where people had to register to leave comments, but then my dad had trouble with that so I removed the requirement.  I’ve tried putting keywords in my black list which means they should automatically get moved to spam, but those tricky bots kept getting around it and I kept getting email notifications daily regarding new comments that just turned out to be spam.

So now I have the dreaded “captcha” system set up on the comments form.  It’s a fairly mild type, just basic math problems, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for you fine folks.  And hopefully I will now just receive email notification for legit comments.  Go team!

Man, I have quite neglected my kefir grains.  Typically you should change the sugar water every 24 hours, but I was leaving it for at least 3-7 days because our pantry is fairly cool so it didn’t seem like the fermenting process was going as fast.  Well, then we had the family vacation, and then I just forgot about it because it was in the cupboard….  Those grains had been sitting in the same sugar water for well over a month before I changed out the water.  They kind of had a brownish tinge to them instead of the pure crystal clear color, but I’m hoping to revive them.  Of course, I told myself I was going to be diligent and change out the water ever 24 hours and it’s already been three days, but still!  Fingers crossed that I haven’t damaged them too much.

A couple months ago, our local farm stopped selling raw milk.  The dairy they were getting it from decided to shut its doors due to over regulation from the government or something along those lines.  I was about to FREAK OUT.  Where would I get my raw milk now?!  I NEED MY RAW MILK!  The farm told me there was a store downtown that sold it, Real Foods, so that’s where we’ve been getting it since then.  The drive is kind of a pain, but on the other hand I like that they keep typical store hours whereas the farm only was open two days a week for about three hours each day.  Velvet told me she got an alert that the farm was starting to sell raw milk again, but they had increased the price to $9/gallon.  We pay roughly that right now so the price wasn’t a huge issue, but I just like the availability of the store downtown now.  We will still go to through the farm for our grass-fed beef and pork most likely.

We have a rogue chicken in our flock.  For awhile a couple of the hens were escaping the enclosure and while sometimes they would go back on their own, usually we would have to catch them and drop them back over the fence.  Jesse finally got the fence to the point where it’s probably taller than me.

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You’d think that would be high enough to deter even the most determined chicken, especially after we cut their flight feathers a few weeks back.  You’d think.  We still have one red hen that escapes every morning.  We can only assume she is somehow flying over the fence line but we’ve never been able to catch her in the act.  It seems like her main purpose is to leave an egg under the deck and then forage in the garden area until we go out to get her.

rogue chicken egg

rogue chicken egg

A huge positive about her is she basically will come running to you to be put back in the pen.  She runs over and hunkers down, we pick her up and plop her over the fence, and she goes to find her sisters.  Every morning.  The only way this routine changes is if the dogs are outside because they will run toward her, which makes her turn around and run, which makes them want to chase her.  Then it’s a major pain in the ass to try and wrangle the dogs away from her and to pick her up.  I don’t think the dogs want to kill her; they’ve been in the chicken enclosure before and don’t seem aggressive.  They just like to chase things that run.  We’re still working on that.

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Because we have so many eggs right now, it can take some time for us to use them.  We have a system where we place them in egg cartons and then work from the oldest to the newest, but it can still take days to go through a carton, if not longer than that.  Jesse likes to do the float test on them to test freshness, but I just open them up and go with it.  I figure I’m not eating these raw so if they are a little stale, no matter.  I was talking to a coworker about it and she said really if the egg is bad, you’ll know from the smell.  I am always on the lookout for recipes that use a lot of eggs and I decided to try my hand at a frittata.  I had cracked maybe three eggs in the bowl and was cracking the fourth egg open when suddenly the yolk didn’t look quite right.  It was darker, and kind of broken/chunky looking.  Some had already spilled into the bowl but I opened the rest of the egg over the sink and took a whiff.  My friend was not wrong when she said you can tell a bad egg by its scent.  Holy moly!  That was an unpleasant smell!  I discarded all the eggs, washed the bowl and started again, this time making sure I used a separate dish to crack the eggs into first before placing into the main bowl.  You know, like you’re supposed to.

We harvested tomatoes and grapes last night.  I love our grapes so very, very much.

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They are what all grapes wish they could be.  Well, except for our very tiny deep blue/purple grapes.  I’m not a fan of those.  They all have seeds and seem fairly bland to me.  Jesse says maybe we will take those vines out and replace them with my beloved style of grape.  I don’t even know what variety they are, but I do know that they are great!  Jesse steam juiced a bunch of them last night and this morning it appears he made three quart jars of grape juice.  Mmmm!  We also picked enough tomatoes and peppers that he can do another batch of salsa.  We still have a ton of tomatoes ripening on the vine, so it looks to be another bountiful harvest year.

grapes, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers

grapes, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers

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Jesse also harvested some of our pears that had fallen beneath the tree.  Some of the fruit he threw to the chickens, but we have a fair few pears in the fridge now and they are quite tasty.

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Ezra was much taken with them when I cut one up.  I’m trying to get over thinking that produce has to look perfect.  For example, the pear had a hole in it where something had burrowed in and maybe laid eggs.  Cut out that part of the fruit and the majority of the fruit is still edible.  Eventually it’ll be second nature and I probably won’t think about it, but for now it still makes me think, “Ewww, there was a bug in that!”

The mystery of the heart in the freezer

As many of you know, we raw feed the dogs and cats.  Last night I was rummaging through our freezer and pulled out a package of skinned rabbit legs, some beef kidneys, and a heart.  I took them upstairs to thaw and didn’t think any of it.  Later that night I was telling Jesse about what I had grabbed and showed him the heart.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me:  …and then I took out this heart to thaw.
Jesse:  Wait, where did we get that heart?
Me:  Um…your brother, I think?
J:  No, he only gave us roasts and salami.  Did we get it from the butcher?
Me:  No, because it would have been wrapped in butcher paper.  Hmm, where did this heart come from?!

This led to a longer conversation about where it was postulated that a killer broke into our house and left a human heart in our freezer.  Because while I was pretty sure it wasn’t a human heart, I did for a moment think about sending it in to be analyzed.

After I got to work today, I contacted one of my coworkers.  We have gotten rabbits and fish and such from him when he goes hunting, so I thought maybe it had come from him.  I am happy to report I was correct; it is a deer heart he gave us last November.  I’m glad that mystery was solved, especially after one of my cousins had the audacity to suggest a zombie had left it in the freezer to eat as a snack later on.  Yeah, because that’s all I need to be thinking about, zombies stopping by and leaving stuff in our freezer.  Thanks for that.

Catch-up post Part 4 – The Whitaker Mohawk

We have been cutting Ezra’s hair into a mohawk for quite some time now, and I think it really suits him.  Also, I don’t have to comb his hair, so, bonus.  Usually I just clipper Jesse’s hair when it starts to get shaggy, but this time we decided to give him a mohawk as well.  I really like it, makes him look racy and sharp.

mohawk boys

I was watching YouTube videos and somehow I got to watching ones about the side cut on girls, where they shave about a quarter of the head, just the one side.  My hair was really getting long but I didn’t do anything with it ever.  It was so hot at night and I had been thinking of cutting it for awhile, so after watching videos on and off all day, I decided to go for it and shaved the side of my head.  Then to be symmetrical I shaved the other side.

side cut

I had it like that for maybe two weeks but didn’t love it.  I could cover up the sides if I wanted to look more mainstream, but it didn’t help with the heat and my hair was still lackluster.  I went back to the YouTube drawing board.  This time I watched videos on mohawks.

I tend to be a seat-of-my-pants girl in some situations, and after work that day I decided I was just going to go for it.  Velvet wanted to come as well so I swung by and picked her up and she was there to witness me chopping off my hair again.

before During After

Learning how to style it:

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My head felt so much lighter after all that hair came off, it was awesome!  And I’ve been playing with it, finding different styles I can do.  I’ve only had it this way for a couple weeks and the side hair has already grown quite a bit.  I need to decide if I want to keep it like this for awhile or grow it into a pixie.  It’s the growing out stages that are always the worst.  I’ve been playing with my makeup again lately, too.  Kind of trying to feminize the look.  Makes me feel like I’m back in college when I used to be into that kind of thing.  It’s fun being a girl!

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And with that sentiment, dear people, we end the catch-up posts and return to our regularly scheduled program.

Catch-up post Part 3 – Bountiful harvest

Our peach trees have produced like crazy this year.  The earwigs love them, too, which is unfortunate and next year I will be more proactive in organic pesticides/preventatives, but all in all we have a crap ton of peaches.  I made peach fruit leather with one batch, and they turned out quite nicely if I can get over the fact that they took FOREVER to dry out.

I have also made a batch of peach butter.  I used spices in that batch, but then I read an article where she made peach/lavender butter, and peach/rum butter, and peach/vanilla butter, so this next set I’m going to look up some recipes and find out how to branch out the flavor profile.

peaches, basil, tomatoes, and a random egg found in the garden

peaches, basil, tomatoes, and a random egg found in the garden

Our tomato plants are coming along nicely, and Jesse’s pepper plants are just brimming with peppers.

With all the new hens (we now have 11 total), I was thinking we should be getting more eggs than we were picking up daily.  I mean, it had dropped to collecting three, maybe four eggs a day, and I *knew* the other girls were starting to lay as well.  Sometimes I would find an egg randomly around the yard, but Jesse found a HUGE nest of eggs under our deck, probably picked up 10-15 eggs there.  I was under the deck that same day and looked under the ladder where the girls had laid a time or two in the past, and there was another HUGE clutch of eggs.  We probably have near 100 eggs in our kitchen now.  Anyone want to buy some?

eggs

We’ve been feeding the dogs two eggs a day each and making quiche, but really there is only so many eggs one can eat.  Seriously.

Catch-up post Part 2 – Feeding raw

After we got back from our big family vacation, we picked up the puppies from Jesse’s friend.  We had wanted to bring them on vacation, but they wouldn’t have been allowed inside the lodge and Jess’ friend has worked with puppies before and has a dog himself.  The puppies were well taken care of and were excited to see us.

We had made the decision to feed them raw before we left for vacation, but we still had kibble left and didn’t want to bother our sitter with raw requirements (though really there is nothing to it) so after we ran out of kibble we started with raw.  The thinking is you start them on one protein first and do that for a couple weeks to make sure they don’t have any allergies to it, and then you include a new protein and test it a few weeks, etc.  We started with chicken.  We bought a case of chicken legs and a case of chicken thighs from Costco, and we had absolutely no issues feeding raw with the dogs.

We did get two large wire-frame kennels that I lock them up in while they are eating, and that is to prevent one pup from stealing the other pup’s food if one finishes more quickly.  We started on legs and thighs, and incorporated hearts, gizzards, and livers.  We have been doing this for quite some time now, and have branched out into rabbit and fish as well, and so far no issues.  The only downside is while some folks are able to make this feeding style cheaper than kibble, we have not been able to do this yet.  We are networking, trying to get people’s freezer-burned meat, or hunters who only go for the antlers but have no desire for the carcass, but so far no luck.  I think we’ll be able to make it cheaper eventually, and we have been able to get down to $.78/$.88/lb for chicken, but I’d like it to get cheaper than that because the dogs eat a couple pounds of food each day, and that can really add up.

Food price is the downside, on the upside, the puppies coats and teeth look great.  Their poo is smaller and I like knowing there is only one ingredient in what we’re feeding them.  They are also SUPER excited to get their food, unlike the kibble where they would eat it but not excitedly.  I haven’t noticed any aggression cropping up like some people worry about.  The dogs get into the chicken area but have not turned into chicken hunters.  They *do* like to roll in the chicken and rabbit crap, but that’s a whole other issue.

We have now also switched the cats over to raw feeding.  We bought a Weston #12 commercial meat grinder for this purpose, although really we could have made it work with other methods.  We wanted a grinder that could handle grinding bones, and this one seemed very capable (and also when Jesse starts to go hunting we can make our own ground venison, or we can make our own sausages).  We ground up chicken leg quarters together with chicken livers, hearts, and gizzards, and parceled them out into tupperware containers to freeze.  The first few days the cats were NOT feeling the raw food.  We ended up partially cooking some of it and mixing it with raw to get them used to it, but now they seem to be eating it without hesitation.  We still need to figure out how much we should be feeding them; it’s a percentage of their body weight, but I’m not sure if it should be 3% or 5% or…  I need to read up on that.  So far, though, so good.