Archive for May, 2013

Well, it is almost zucchini season. I am almost afraid of it, this year – we planted a bunch, and I am expecting a literal ton of zucchini. Besides grating them into pasta sauce and cakes (which I can’t have these days, with the gluten restrictions and all) and giving them to neighbors, I don’t know of all that many things to do with zucchini. However, I actually like them just grilled on the BBQ, to eat as a side to my burger.


Of course, my ‘burger’ can’t be beef, anymore, nor can I have real (cow-based) cheddar on it, or put it on an actual bun. I can’t finish it off with ice cream, either. This kid’s allergies are killing me! My vegetarian sister introduced me to great recipe several years ago, though, that actually is quite possibly tastier than burgers anyhow, so I really can’t complain too much. Instead of hamburgers, she eats barbecued portobello mushroom caps.  While not dairy-free or vegan in my recipe, it is easy to make them so – just use Daiya or other vegan cheese, and (for vegans) skip the mayo – an easy way to accommodate a range of dietary needs at a backyard barbeque.  These are satisfyingly hearty, and fit perfectly on a bun. Or, as the case may be, a gluten-free bagel…


Grilled Zucchini:


Wash the zuke, and slice on an angle to get wide rounds.


sliced zucchini


Set in a dish, and pour olive oil over the slices, and toss to coat.


Sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoning blend.


zucchini with herbs


Grill on the BBQ on low-medium heat until lightly browned.




Grilled Portobello Caps:


portobello mushrooms


Wash the mushroom caps and pat dry with paper towel. Break off the stems. Rub both sides liberally with olive oil. Barbeque, cup down, on low-medium heat for a few minutes until the mushroom begins to soften. Flip, and sprinkle cheese or vegan cheese (in my case tonight, goat feta, though cheddar or mozzerella is also tasty) in the cap (optional – spoon a dollop of green basil pesto into the cap, before sprinkling with cheese, though be aware that most canned pesto has dairy in it). If you don’t add the green pesto, sprinkle a little Italian seasoning mix over the feta. Leave the mushrooms on low-medium heat until the cheese melts and begins to brown. Serve on a hamburger bun, or (in my case) a gluten free bagel with a bit of mayonnaise (garlic mayo is a nice touch, if you’re feeling creative):


vegetarian BBQ 'burger' with grilled zucchini


Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the whole ice cream problem…

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In organic gardening, a trap crop is used to lure pest bugs away from your cash crop, or edible vegetables.  For instance, nasturtiums attract aphids, keeping those aphids from doing damage to beans and spinach.   We use trap crops sometimes, here, but we haven’t had heavy pest loads, and are therefore reluctant to use the space for planted trap crops, when the hedges and fields nearby seen to host sufficient predators to keep our garden pests mostly under control.


However, our garden is in one corner of a farmer’s field.  A conventional farmer, who periodically sprays fertilizer and Roundup and who-knows-what else.   Stuff I am pretty sure I don’t want on my beans and potatoes.  Stuff I don’t want to eat or to feed to Baby M.


So we make space at the edge of the garden for a double row of sunflowers.  Black oil sunflowers, that grow really tall, really fast.  They’re cheap – I bought a five-pound bag of them, labeled as bird seed, and planted them; they grow just fine.  And, should the farmer decide to spray on a day that is not perfectly calm, those cheap sunflowers will ‘trap’ the nasty gunk, and keep my carrots more-or-less organic.   Plus, they attract all sorts of good bugs and birds into my garden, helping keep the pests down.   They add a cheerful, pretty note to the garden, too!




I spent my morning planting sunflowers, in case anyone was wondering!

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In the admin statistics for this blog, I have a record of search terms that led people here.  There are the expected searches, like things relating to goats, or root cellars.  Some are a little surprising.  The top terms that bring people to Rural Dreams are searches for a recipe for rose petal jelly, and searches relating to dogs eating tampons.


Then there are the ones that make you wonder.  “Pictures of chickens when defecating”?  Really?  Or “chicken with raggedy bum feathers”?  “Do sun city palm desert garages have rebarb”? Huh?  “Porn”?  When I read that last one out to Hubby, he laughed out loud, and said my blog must have been the very last click on a totally epic night.  How many pages in would you have to be in on google to find this blog with that search?!?


Some of the search terms make me wonder if the seekers found what they were looking for.  I even have good answers for some off them, but I don’t know if they’re really typed out, here on the blog.  It’s been bugging me, here are some of the questions, and my answers.


How long can you keep unwashed eggs in a root cellar?


We’ve kept them in the root cellar for several months, even in the summer.  It does depend to an extent on how cool your root cellar is, but even if it is a cool-ish room temperature, you’ll have a couple of months at minimum, as long as the eggs were fresh from the chicken when you put them down there.  In the UK (and possibly other parts of Europe, though I wasn’t paying enough attention in other countries), they don’t refrigerate eggs at the store or in homes – they are often kept on a basket on the counter.  Of course, the UK doesn’t experience the same sorts of summer temperatures as, say, Texas, so your location does play a role.  However, most root cellars will keep a reasonably stable cool temperature right through the summer, so you should be fine.


Also of note, if you have any question about whether your eggs might be good, drop them in a glass that is three- quarters full of water.  If they float, discard them.  If they sink, they’re probably fine.


How to melt winter snow quickly for toilet flush?


Well, first, don’t flush the toilet if it’s only pee.  That’s a waste of good water.  It takes a few gallons for a satisfactory flush, and it takes something like eight or ten gallons of snow to get one gallon of water.


We found the most effective way to melt snow was in large pots on the stove.  One trick, though, is to melt one pot full by continuing to add snow as things melt and compact, then let it get quite warm.  Pour that into a five-gallon bucket of snow (if you have one), and the heat from the water will melt a lot of snow very quickly.


If you suspect you will need to flush a number of times, it is efficient to scoop up pots and buckets of snow in the evening and bring them in the house to melt overnight.  Then you can heat the resulting water to melt a bigger bucket-full for flushing.


What to do with 20 pounds of cherries?


I recommend eating as many as you can.  I am happy to eat both sweet and sour cherries out of hand, but I am odd that way.  They are a pain in the neck to pit.  If you have a cherry pitter, it is a little more manageable, but it is still an awful lot of work.


If you are still determined to preserve them, the best way of doing so depends on whether you have sweet cherries or pie (sour) cherries.  Sweet cherries freeze fairly well, especially if you have a vacuum sealer.  Sour cherries are best canned, in my opinion.  I have tried making jam from sweet cherries, and found it fairly bland; pie cherries make a delightful pie filling or jam.  You could also make them into pies, and freeze them that way.


Can homemade ice tea stay out on the counter?


Yes, but not for more than a couple of days if it is sweetened, especially if it is hot out.  It will, in fact, go off.  Even if it is unsweetened, molds can grow in plain black tea, though unsweetened iced tea would probably last longer than the sweet stuff.  If in doubt, give it a sniff, and you’ll know.   However, to me, the whole point of iced tea is to have a refreshing cold drink, so we normally keep it in the fridge.


How long will my infant goat live without food?


It depends on the age of the goat kid, but if it is still exclusively nursing, then you probably have hours, not days.   The baby goat gets its liquids from the milk, as well as its nutrition, so the main issue here would be dehydration.  By the time a goat kid is a couple of weeks old, it will start experimenting with nibbling hay and grain, but it may or may not be drinking from a bucket.  If you are desperate, dip your finger into some water, then drip it in the goat’s mouth, or give it some in a baby bottle with the nipple sliced a bit to make the hole bigger.  This will buy you a little time to figure out what to feed it.  If it is a brand-new newborn, however, it needs colostrum right away, which gives it some antibodies to keep it from getting sick.  Without that colostrum, it does not have a very good chance of surviving.


Pics of dreaming cute baby?


Yup.  We can do sleeping:


cute sleeping baby


Or waking up:


cute baby waking up





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People keep asking me how things are going, with me being back to work now.


Apparently I keep giving the wrong answer.


I tell them I enjoy it.  That having a routine is good for me.  That it’ll be great to have a full paycheque again.


People accept that part.  Then they say “Oh, but it must be soooo hard to leave your baby every morning.


And I tell them that no, it’s not.


This is where the problem begins.


The thing is, I am leaving my son with a perfectly competent parent, one who loves him every bit as much as I do.  Someone who is probably better suited to parenting than I am, given our respective levels of patience, tolerance, and such.   I am leaving them in order to go to an office where (usually) nobody is screaming, covered in poop, biting the dog, refusing to nap, or whatever.  I am going to a job that I am pretty good at, one that I know how to do; I am rarely at a total loss for how to approach a situation.   I get a lot of respect at work, and people look up to me and ask for advice.  I am something of a mentor for some of the newer staff members.   My opinion is valued.  My work is challenging, and my days are varied and often quite interesting.  I enjoy my colleagues.  Hell, I even get to eat lunch, with both hands free, using utensils, while it is still hot.


What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of advantages to being at work.  Advantages beyond the paycheque.  Things like personal fulfillment, challenging tasks, respect, power, and freedom.  Apparently moms aren’t supposed to want or enjoy these things, however.


You see, people seem to think it’s okay for me to be a mom and have a job, as long as I don’t enjoy it.   Folks understand the necessity of an income, I guess.  But if I say I am happy to be back to work, they cock their head and ask “but don’t you miss your baby while you’re gone?” (No, not particularly.)  Or they want to tell me about how, for their first two weeks back to work, they cried in the car all the way to the office (I didn’t.  I listen to my favorite music, very loud, and drive too fast).   People keep asking pointed questions, apparently searching for some sort of mommy guilt that I just don’t possess.


Then they judge me.


They talk about how hard it was for their wife to go back to work.  Or how terrible they feel dropping their kids off at the sitter’s.  They talk about how another lady we used to work with is taking five years off to open a daycare so she can stay home with her kids.  While I am happy that she is able to start a business and stay home with her kids if that’s what she wants to do, I don’t understand how my failure to consign myself and my family to a severely reduced income and a pink-collar-ghetto “career” makes me a worse mom, somehow.   How enjoying my job and all the advantages it confers (including not having to change diapers for 8 solid hours) makes me less of a loving parent.  I would like very much to know why Mom being challenged, powerful,  fulfilled, and well-paid is so bad for my kid.


I would like to know how many fathers are asked these questions when they go back to work.

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Other kids get a play pen.  Actually, Baby M has two of those.  One for inside in the living room (which he mostly only sleeps in now), and one for the barn (which got taken over by baby goats, and stinks).  However, they don’t suffice.


You see, doing barn chores, or yard work, or really anything at all with an eleven-month-old in tow is basically impossible.  He wants to be held.  If he isn’t being held, he wants to explore.  He “helps”.  Baby M throws down anything you pick up.  He scatters piles.  He screams and scares the goats.  He pinches.  He puts things in his mouth that are not strictly edible.  Or that are just disgusting.  His clothes get filthy.  And so forth.


However, the work does not stop just because there’s a baby on the farm.  We managed for the first ten months by trading off – I would supervise Baby M while Hubby shoveled, for instance, then Hubby would parent while I did evening chores.  That was mostly functional for the day-to-day stuff, and my Dad and Step-Mom would occasionally come out and help for the two (or more) person jobs that we couldn’t manage anymore, like vaccination and tattooing.  Occasionally frustrating, but the necessary stuff got accomplished.


Then I went back to work.


And yard work season hit; spring finally arrived.


Now, we still trade off for chores, and for evening-and-weekend stuff like mowing grass and pruning trees.  However, there’s a lot to be done that just won’t fit into my before-and-after-work hours.  And somebody has to do it, baby or no baby.  So we built the Hay Pen.


Hay Pen 1


The Hay Pen is sort of like a play pen…but completely different.  We made a perimeter of hay bales around a relatively clean bit of ground in the barn, out of the way, but still in sight of the places we would tend to be when we were, say, milking goats or feeding bottle kids.  This has the added advantage of freeing up two adults for dealing with worming, vaccinations, disbudding, and such.  Luckily, Baby M seems to like the Hay Pen, especially when Molly Underfoot the barn cat comes to play.  Baby M does not, however, like the baby goats, who jump on the bales and nip M’s ears.


There may eventually be hay pens all over the yard.  There needs to be one behind the barn, where Hubby will be putting the squash this year, and one in the big garden.  Hubby is contemplating one in the back yard, too, so he can prune trees, rake grass, and pick strawberries without having to pay too much attention to Baby M.   We have a big garden wagon hat Baby M could hang out in, but he always wants to stand up, but the sides are too low for that to be safe.  With all the thistles and nettles in the grass, a blanket on the ground isn’t really ideal, either.   In the Hay Pen, Baby M can pull himself up on the hay bales, and cruise around quite quickly; he’s beginning to walk, too, so he’ll have a safe space to practice that as well.  Being made of old bales, we can make the pens as large as we like; even two or three bales to a side, if that’s how much space M needs to be happy.  Meanwhile, Molly Underfoot always seems to gravitate to where the baby is, and seems very tolerant of M’s less-than-gentle attentions, so she will provide hours and hours of entertainment, I’m sure…


Hay Pen 2





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Our last kid this year was a good-looking doeling out of my favorite milker.  Because the milker is a proven good mom, I looked the doeling over for obvious conformation problems, checked gender and sucking reflex, and left her and mama to do their thing.  It was extremely cold and windy for several days after the doeling was born, so they stayed in the (dark) barn.

The day I let the mamas out, I noticed the doeling squinting a bit.  I made a note of it, but didn’t have a chance to go catch her to see if something was wrong.  The next day, we decided to disbud her, and I finally got a good look at her in the sun.

Her one eye was milky, but not infected, crusted, or oozing.  I thought, ‘oh, damn, she’s blind in one eye’, but did not worry too much about it, as we planned on keeping her anyhow.  We had a disbudding iron malfunction, so she did not get disbudded that day.


healthy goat kid eye

healthy goat kid eye

Coincidentally, I read an article about a minor deformity in goats, where the eyelid turns under, causing the eyelashes to scratch the cornea, that very night.  Sure enough, when I checked her the next day, this was exactly the problem.  It really wasn’t obvious until I went looking for it, though, so I thought I should post up here about it, in case anyone else runs across it.


A goat kid with lower eyelid turned under, causing the eyelashes to damage the eye

A goat kid with lower eyelid turned under, causing the eyelashes to damage the eye

One solution is to take the goat in to the vet, who will put in a couple of stitches to turn the eyelid out properly, but with all the other vet emergencies we’ve had here this year, our vet budget is kind of gone.  I searched the internet for another option.  I actually found something that looked viable:  superglue.

We held the doe down, and gently pulled the lower eyelid (the one causing the problems) until the lashes turned out and became visible.  Then we put a bead of superglue a little further down her cheek, and touched the now-revealed eyelashes to the superglue (shockingly, I got very little on my own fingers, though I had worried about gluing myself to the goat).  This leaves an uncomfortable-looking bit of inner-eyelid skin showing, but I am certain it is much better than having her eyeball scratched any more.  We’re monitoring the situation, and so far, the glue is holding.  Theoretically, by the time it wears off, the eyelid should be re-shaped, with no tendency to turn under.  In practice, we’ll see what happens, but at least those eyelashes aren’t doing any further damage, and we now have a bit of breathing room to save up for a trip to the vet, if that turns out to be necessary.


Andromeda portrait 2013

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We did not have much of a garden in 2012 – everything kind of conspired against us.  Me being hugely pregnant, Baby M’s birth being so traumatic, his allergies (and constant screaming), and that big storm in late June that knocked over an awful lot of our little plants.


However, we did manage to harvest a significant amount of carrots (maybe forty or fifty pounds) about the same of potatoes, and a lot of onions (we planted 500 sets).  In the autumn, we bought some cabbages, beets, and turnips in bulk, and also we picked up some pumpkins and spaghetti squash from the farmer’s market to round out our winter vegetable supply.


In 2011 / 2012, the root-cellared carrots were done by mid-February.  This year, however, we’re still eating them from our root cellar.  Some have rotted, and the texture is not as crisp as when they were harvested, for sure, and there is some fuzz on some of them – we peel them now, instead of just scrubbing them – but we ate some in our soup tonight, and they are still entirely edible.  The potatoes are also fine, and the cabbages as well, though you have to peel off several layers of dessicated leaves to get to the good stuff.  The beets, like the carrots, are softer, but still edible.  The squash is fine.  Squash lasts forever.   Some of the onions are starting to sprout, but the rest are still as good as the day they were harvested.


The difference between this year and last year, for the carrots at least, is that we managed the humidity better.  Last year, some of the carrots got dried out quite early in the year, and got too dried out and bitter to eat much earlier than they should have.  Others of our storage carrots last year were too damp, and rotted early, as well.  This year, we kept the carrots in a plastic Rubbermaid tub, with a plastic bag draped over top, which we adjust when we’re down there – pull it off a bit if things seem too humid, or pull it more closed if things look like they might be drying out.  It appears to be working quite well, considering we’re still eating last September’s carrot harvest, on May first.  While the root cellaring books I have read suggested storing them in damp sand or sawdust, we haven’t found a good supply of either of those things, and are happy that our rigged system appears to suffice.  I am quite delighted to be eating our own local produce, eight months later!

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