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Archive for June, 2013

The weather has been odd, at best, this year.  Spring was very late for us; we still had snow on the north sides of the hedges on Victoria Day, which is the third weekend in May.  Then we had a couple weeks where it was hot and dry, then it decided to rain…and rain…and rain…

 

A week ago Friday, we got three inches of rain in a few hours.  Our normal annual precipitation is 12 to 14 inches.  Of course, there hasn’t been a normal year since we moved here in 2011; it’s been one wet year after another.  It’s gotten to the point that the roads are so soggy that they dissolve under any sort of heavy traffic, like, for instance, tractors out doing seeding, and car-swallowing potholes appear more or less overnight.  As well, with the ground saturated to begin with, the roadside sloughs creep a little higher with every rain, until the roads are underwater, or just wash away entirely.  Of the five routes i could normally choose from to get to work, we’re down to one, and there is a slough within a few inches of wiping that road out, as well.  If it came to it, I could take a ferry to the other side of the river, but that would add an hour or so to my commute.

 

Today, the rain finally stopped for a bit, and some of the roads started drying out.  We took a peek in the garden, and it’s…bad.  Really bad.  Like chest-high thistles bad.  On the bright side, from our vantage point, we could see potatoes, onions, lots of beans and sunflowers, some squash plants, and some corn, so at least the rain did not rot all the seed. We couldn’t see the carrots, spinach, or beets, but I don’t know if that was because they haven’t sprouted, or if they’re just obscured by weeds.   Now, we just have to go in there and find our vegetable rows in all that weedy mess…

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When I was a little girl, there was a big lilac tree at the side of the house, as well as a little lilac bush in the back yard. For a couple of weeks in springtime, we would gather big armfuls of flowers for the kitchen table, and I just loved that smell. I loved it so much that I experimented with ways of preserving it to enjoy later. I dried flowers to make sachets, but the scent faded very quickly – a few weeks later, they just smelled dusty. Another year, I tried soaking flowers in alcohol and almond oil in an attempt at making perfume, but that didn’t work, either. Eventually I just gave up and enjoyed them for a couple of weeks in the spring time.

 

lilacs

 

We have lots of lilacs here at the acreage. When I say lots, I mean probably a half-mile or more worth of lilac hedges – they run along the driveway, plus a long hedge out front of the house, as well as a random lilac hedge north of the goat barn. In springtime, I gather armloads of flowers, stuff them in quart jars, and put them in every room.

 

A couple of years ago, I canned up a batch of wild rose jelly. While I find it too strong to just eat on toast, it’s lovely in baking, in, say, thumb prints in shortbread cookies. Every time I open a jar, I get a whiff of June! This year, I thought I would try preserving the lilacs that way, as well. I gathered a few extra armloads of flowers, and made lilac jelly and lilac simple syrup.

 

For both recipes, you need to pull the lilac flowers from the stems, and make sure no green parts remain, or apparently they will make the finished product bitter.

 

lilac flowers

 

Watch for beetles and worms, too!

 

worm in lilacs

 

The color is quite pretty when you’re ladling into jars, but for some reason, it fades in the processing. Nevertheless, the final products taste great! The jelly is less overpowering than the wild rose jelly was, and the flavor reminds me of tutti-frutti. The simple syrup is already in steady use as a sweetener for home-made iced tea, for a novel flavor twist in our favorite summer drink.

 

lilac jelly and syrup, before and after processing

 

Lilac Jelly:

Really, this is just an adaptation of the recipe for Rose Petal Jelly;  you could use any edible flower you liked, and someday, I will try other variations, I am sure!

 

1 quart (4 cups) slightly packed lilac flowers, green parts removed

1 quart water

juice from 2 lemons

1 packet pectin

5 1/2 cups sugar

 

Simmer the lilac flowers in the water for about ten minutes. Strain out the flowers. Add lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a boil (as per pectin packet instructions), add sugar, return to a rolling boil, and boil for one full minute. Remove from heat and ladle into jars. Process jars in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes for pints.

 

lilac flowers

 

Lilac Syrup

 

1 quart lilac flowers green parts removed

1 quart water

4 cups sugar

juice from two lemons

 

Simmer the lilac flowers in the water for about ten minutes. Strain, return to pot, and add lemon juice and sugar. Return to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar. Ladle into jars, and process fifteen minutes for pints.

 

lilac flowers in jar

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Happy Birthday, Baby M

That year went fast!   Now we have a little boy who just won’t slow down!

 

Baby M 12 months

Happy Birthday, Baby M!

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We really enjoy our chickens.  Roasted, barbequed, or in soups…and sometimes their personalities are cute, too.

 

Two years ago, we ordered fifty chickens, without quite knowing where we would put them.  We built a coop in one corner of the barn, but we discovered (the day we brought those chicks home) that it was drafty when it was six degrees outside and raining sideways.  So, we ended up with fifty chicks taking up residence in our bathtub for a week or so, until we could make alternate arrangements.

 

2013 chicks

 

This year, we ordered 25 more chicks, to replace the hens that the fox got last summer, and also with the intent of boosting our egg production, as we’ve found it astonishingly easy to unload eggs, even at a slightly profitable price.  There are other folks around here selling eggs for less than we charge, but we have an advantage:  one of our ‘bonus’ chickens that the hatchery included in our order lays green eggs.  Apparently a green egg or two is worth at least a dollar a dozen!

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

With that in mind, we ordered ten straight run Americaunas, the breed that lays the green eggs.  Apparently they can also lay blue, brown, and pink eggs, depending, so I’m hoping that we get at least five hens, and that at least a couple of them lay colored eggs.

 

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

We also got 15 Black Sex Link hen chicks.  We’ve never had them before, but I really liked the idea of minimizing the number of new roosters around here.  We still have plenty from the 25 or so we butchered in 2011; apparently we don’t eat chicken as often as I thought.  These BSL girls are supposed to be good layers, and very hardy in cold weather.  Hopefully this is true, as our winters are very long and cold.

 

 

2013 Black Sex Link chick

 

Knowing we had chickens coming, we had a plan, and even a place to put them.  The weather had been quite nice for several weeks, and there is a reasonably protected corner of the barn we thought we could reclaim; the coop we built for the 2011 chicks is, of course, occupied by the 2011 chickens, so that wasn’t an option.   Then, of course (of course!), it got chilly, and the rain came.  Great for my garden; not so great for day-old chicks.   At least this time we didn’t have to scramble to put a hook in over the bathtub to hang the heat lamp on…

 

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

Those chicks will be evicted as soon as the weather turns, though…

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Back in early May, I posted about our doeling, Andy, having a turned under lower eyelid. This is a minor birth defect, but it can cause blindness, as the eyelashes scratch the cornea, and eventually, the damage turns the eye milky and the goat goes blind.

 

Goat kid eye with turned under eyelid.  The eyelashes have scratched the eye, causing a milky patch.

Goat kid eye with turned under eyelid. The eyelashes have scratched the eye, causing a milky patch.

 

We did not want to take Andy to the vet if we could avoid it, so we tried pulling the eyelid into proper position and glueing it in place with superglue. The idea was that by the time the glue wore off, the muscles around the eyelid would be stretched so that it wouldn’t turn under anymore. The glued eyelid looked a bit uncomfortable, but I’m sure it was much better than having the eyeball damaged further.

 

Goat kid eyelid glued with superglue to keep it from turning under

Goat kid eyelid glued with superglue to keep it from turning under

 

Andy had not been a very playful kid up until this point, and seemed to spend a lot of time lying down. Immediately after having the eyelid glued, however, she started running around a lot more. I don’t know if it was because she was no longer in pain, or if she could see better, but within a couple of days, she was bouncing on the old tire and playing king of the castle with the other kids.

 

I had thought that the damage to the eye would make Andy blind, as we did not catch this right away, and her eye had a large milky patch by the time we did the repair. However, it the cloudy part seems to have healed completely, and is now clear. There is a dark spot on the iris where the milky patch was, but I don’t believe it affects Andy’s vision at all, and I don’t know if it was caused by the damage to her eye. The superglue did its job very well, so the eyelid no longer turns under, and Andy now looks completely normal.

 

After treatment with superglue.  The glue has worn off, and the eyelid is permanently reshaped.  The eyeball also appears to have healed.

After treatment with superglue. The glue has worn off, and the eyelid is permanently reshaped. The eyeball also appears to have healed.

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