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 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.

 

Cold and cough

Poor Ezra has been fighting a cold for awhile now.  The past few nights he’s been waking himself up because he’s been coughing so hard.  I’m fighting a cold as well, but not to the extent that he is.  A few months ago I read about a fellow blogger’s garlic balm that she uses on colds and I had used it on Ezra at that time and then left it in the fridge.  I cleaned out the old stuff yesterday and made a new batch and lubed the babe down.  I also caved and we bought a cold/cough medicine for children because I wanted Ezra to be able to have a good night’s sleep.  All things considered, I really do think that garlic balm in amazing!  Stink, stinky, stuff, but amazing.  Ezra only had one coughing fit last night, and there is no runny nose today, and no coughing fits.  He sounds so much better!  I’ve been slathering him up chest, back, and feet every couple hours.  I actually did up my feet last night, too, and I feel better as well.  Garlic, who knew?!

To make it yourself, take 8 cloves of garlic, 1/3 C of coconut oil, and blend/whip together until it’s completely smooth.  Put in a glass container and place it in the fridge when you’re not using it.  To tell a secret, I have ours sitting on our counter right now, because our house is cold enough that it’s in a solid form.  But “technically” it should be kept in the fridge.

Mister kitty has been keeping Ezra company while he’s sick.  I think it has more to do with the fuzzy owl blanket Ezra keeps with him, but it’s a cute sight, nonetheless.

Mister loving on Ezra

Mister loving on Ezra

We’ve been canning tons of tomatoes lately, but I wanted to get some jars of paste.  The trouble is, I didn’t want to wait while the mix simmered on the oven for hours at a time while I waited for most of the water to evaporate.  I did a little web research about how other folks did tomato paste and saw a genius post about first dehydrating the tomatoes and then processing them.  It made so much sense!  We have a dehydrator that we got from a set of grandparents:

old dehydrator

old dehydrator

The thing is, this thing was probably quite old before we got it, and we’ve had it for probably 4-5 years and never used it.  I placed the rows of tomatoes on the racks and set it.  I checked on them the next morning before I went to work and only one rack, the one on the bottom, was ready to be removed.  This was after about eight hours.  I rotated the racks and had Jesse keep an eye on them for the rest of the day.  They were still drying when I got home that night.

still-drying tomatoes

still-drying tomatoes

After my experience with dehydrating the tomatoes, I came to the conclusion that we need a better system.  I’m looking at the Excalibur 2900 or maybe the 3900.  They have great reviews and aren’t extremely expensive.  They have a heating coil and fan at the back of the machine, instead of the bottom, for more even drying.  Anyway, I blended the dehydrated tomatoes tonight and put them into two cans.  During the cool down period I heard to separate bangs, so I wasn’t totally surprised when I later lifted the pressure canning lid to find this:

exploded tomato cans

exploded tomato cans

I hopped on to a Facebook canning forum, and there is no real consensus about why they exploded.  Some theorize that I needed more moisture in the cans, some say its because the tomato contents and jars weren’t hot enough before I put them into the canner, others because I had too little head space.  All I know is that was a waste of two drying days, and now I have a mess to clean up.

It has been a little rainy/misty, so Jesse gathered up the onions we had pulled.  I’m excited to try them!

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It’s gettin’ hot in here (so take off all your clothes)

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Yeah.  You all know what I’m talking about.  It is frickin’ hot right now, and I am not loving it.  And for some reason, it’s been a bit muggy, which is weird because our Utah location is usually arid desert.

When we take Ezra outsize, we often like to let him run around naked.  Part of it is because it’d be nice to have him start potty training and I’d like him to know what it feels like when he pees instead of having his diapers whisk it away, but mostly I like that he’s getting vitamin D from the sun, and he gets to play in the dirt which I’m sure is beneficial.  And also, we can just hose him off when we need to.

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Our garden is still going strong.  We have more tomatoes than I know what to do with.  The thing is, we have a vast abundance of cherry tomatoes as well.  A lot of them are “volunteers” from last year when we just let the tomatoes rot on the ground.  Now, the larger tomatoes we will do some canning and make a tomato base and whatnot, but what to do with the ginormous amount of cherry tomatoes?  I’m going to have to go on YouTube and see what others are doing with them.

large tomatoes from the garden, second harvest

large tomatoes from the garden, second harvest

a tiny showing of our cherry tomatoes

a tiny showing of our cherry tomatoes

growing spaghetti squash

growing spaghetti squash

shallots

shallots

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Those really tall things in the front with the wilty bottoms?  Yeah, that’s lettuce.  Lettuce!  I never knew they could grow that tall.  I figured they just stayed these nice, neat little round-shaped heads and that was it.

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Our yard looks a treat, doesn’t it?  We have so much stuff just lying around, it’s ridiculous.

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These sunflowers just started growing and we figured it they get the nice heads we can feed them to the animals, although from what I understand, the black oil sunflower seeds are the best.  I guess they are really high in fat and animals just love them.  Although, just now looking over some images on Google, maybe that’s what we have growing.  Who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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We are now getting about 5 eggs a day from our hens, so Jesse decided we needed to start making quiche.  Now, I’ve made quiche before but was never overly enamored of it, and I never used to use a pie crust with it because of the extra carbs, but Jesse wanted these to have a crust, so he set about learning how to do it.  His first attempt at quiche was delicious and they just keep getting better.  (Side note: Our first quiche we used some fresh basil in the mix.  OMG!  Why don’t we use basil more often?  It was great!)  Last night he decided that he shouldn’t be the only one to know how to make pie crust, so he taught me how.  To be fair, he actually made the dough, but then he showed me how to roll it and bake it off.

amazing quiche

amazing quiche

Mmm.  In this iteration we used numerous cheeses, spinish, cream, eggs, salt and pepper, and diced ham.  The crust was perfect!  All it needs it a couple slices of fresh tomato and some asparagus and it would be even better!  But I’m fairly lazy, so usually I just eat the quiche on it’s own.

We got our Vitamix blender the other day and tried it out that first night.

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How to describe it…It was good, but totally not what I was expecting.  I mean, the machine works perfectly, and even though I knew it was a blender and not a juicer, I guess I was still expecting it to be more juice-like, with less pulp.  But of course, we were blending the entire fruit and veggies and I really didn’t put in much extra liquid, so it turned out to be a very thick concoction.  And I used two carrots, so it was more fibrous than it needed to be.  I know there are probably thousands of actual recipes out there, but we’ve just been winging it.  Last night I made a batch that included kale, spinach, apple, banana, strawberry, raspberry, peach, carrot, honey, and cherry juice.  It is good, but it looks like sludge.  It’s brown.  Sludge brown.  It’s tasty once you get past the visuals.  And I’m getting more veggies in my diet, which was the whole point.  I gave some to Ezra last night and finally gave him a spoon to eat it with.  He thought that was pretty cool.

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Aren’t these grapes so pretty?!  On the old deck for a backdrop, it’s almost like something you’d see in a magazine.  These are the grapes from our back fence.  The yellow jackets were starting to eat them, so we harvested the grapes and Jesse borrowed his mom’s steam juicer.  I didn’t have high hopes, I’ll be honest, because I had tried eating those little purple grapes off the vine and they were still pretty tart.  But Jesse put all the grapes into that steam juice and brought me down a sip from the results and I was shocked!  Shocked I tell you!  Because it was really very tasty.  I think we filled out a couple quart jars with the juice, and that juice was drank quite quickly.  So, I look forward to next year’s harvest.

the good grapes

the good grapes

Jojo-kitty hanging out by the coop

Jojo-kitty hanging out by the coop

I will leave you with your moment of zen:

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