The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Grape Juice

Our grape vines were loaded with grapes this year. So much so, that I think the grapes took all of the moisture and left little for the leaves. Either that, or there is something making the leaves turn brown and die off. I really don't know much at all about grapes. Last year we tried to process the ones we got, but that was a great fiasco. So this year, I wanted to try something different.

A while back, I found a strainer/colander like my mom and I used a long, long time ago. It is very simple and works great with little effort and easy cleanup. Much simpler than the seeder/strainer attachment on the KitchenAid we tried last year.

I picked about half of the grapes, leaving the others to ripen a little longer. I was surprised at how many there were. I rinsed them off outside first to get rid of the tiny little crawling critters and discourage the small cloud of gnats that accompanied them to the house. Then I picked off all of the usable grapes and rinsed them again.

The directions say to cover them with boiling water and simmer until soft. I think next time I will use less water. It seemed to really dilute the juice.

 After they were soft, I used the colander strainer to remove the skins and seeds from the pulp and juice. Like I said, it was very easy, quick and a breeze to clean up.

Now, to leave the juice in the frig for 24 to 48 hours before straining with a cheese cloth. We now interrupt this process. It was during this time frame that my brother had his accident. I'm not actually sure how long the juice set. I think I got back to it before the 48 hours was up, but I'm not sure.

I tried filtering the juice through three layers of cheese cloth, as the book described, but it just wouldn't go through after a very short period of time. I kept having to rinse the cloth to get anymore through. So, by the end of the juice, I was down to one thickness of cheese cloth.

After the juice set for another day there was a little pulp residue in the bottom of the jar, but it tasted okay. Rather tart, but okay. I was initially thinking to leave all of the pulp in the juice, but the book indicated that it would give the juice an off flavor that was very unpleasant, so I didn't.

This morning we poured up a glass of juice and added a heaping teaspoon of sugar to cut the tartness. It was still pretty tart, but we plan to drink it over the next week or so instead of preserving it. I originally planned to pick the rest of the grapes and get them processed, then take all of the juice and can or freeze it to use over time. This was one of those times that things didn't go as planned. I haven't even checked on the remaining grapes out on the vine. I may get back to them, but I may not.

This has been an interesting spring and summer. It has been an abnormal year and now abnormal has become the normal for us. I am grateful that we have been led to prepare for hard times. We are still comfortable with the stores in our pantry, so I am not stressing over how much of the garden or grapes we are not getting preserved. There will be other harvests and other times. For now, we are taking things slowly as they come. Frank is healing nicely and is able to do more everyday. My brother is doing well, all things considered. We are blessed.

Until next time - Fern

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Changes in Chickenville

Hello, Frank here.

Hope everyone is hopping right along. There have been some changes in the chicken house. As I mentioned last time, the Easter egg chickens were going to be leaving, and they are now gone. You don't have to use your creative imagination to figure out where they went, because I am going to tell you. A neighbor of mine is a chicken dealer. Well, I've never really known much about chicken dealers. I have known some cattle dealers. So, I guess a chicken dealer is in the same category, just less weight involved. I called him up, he said he would take them to a chicken sale. He loaned me the cages. After dark, on a Thursday night, Fern and I loaded them into the cages, about four birds per cage so they had some room. The next morning, they were off to the chicken market. I really didn't know that there was a chicken sale, but after the sale, he brought me a computerized printout of the transactions that occurred, and the girls actually brought $7.00 a bird. I gave him $3.00 a bird for his trouble and I kept $4.00. So, the girls are gone. And, their rooster buddy, he is gone too. Here is where you have to use your imagination.

Now, our big birds are the black Australorps that are about six months old. They're just starting to lay. There are 15 of the black girls and we are just starting to see about 3 brown eggs a day. But, to our amazement, we got a green egg the other day. One of these black girls is a half and half from
the eggs we hatched at the same time. So, I guess technically, we have 14 black Australorp hens, one cross breed hen and two Barred Rock roosters. These two roosters we traded three black hens for. So, these are our big birds now. There is no cannibalism, they are a much, much more docile bird than the Araucanas were. 

We now have a dilemma. My new baby birds that were 25 mixed heavy brown egg layers are getting to be about 10 weeks old. Of the 25 about 10 of them are white, which could be an Orpington, a Rock, or a Giant, of the white variety. Here is the dilemma: Fern doesn't like white chickens. So, all toll, 15 + 25 = 40. I will keep 15 of the now young birds, but I only need about 20 chickens, so I will keep 5 of the black Australorps. Which means I have 10 black Australorps, that are six months old, and 10 white hens that are 10 weeks old that need to go to a new home. This doesn't need to happen immediately. So, here in a couple of weeks when the babies are 12 weeks old, I will turn them in with the older black Australorps and let everybody live happily ever after. For a while anyway.

A side note here. When it comes time to catch birds, for whatever the reason being, transporting, butchering or other, it's much easier to take a bird off of the roost after dark, than it is to try to catch one in the corner of a pen during daylight. Especially if you're older and have just had back surgery.

Of the 40 birds I have right now, I have a couple with some minor issues. I will cull these from the flock. In our decision making process of which birds to keep, we'll take into consideration size, feather pattern and color, demeanor and we have some birds that have curled toes that we will not be keeping. 

With this last batch of baby birds, it was during a time frame when it was pretty warm at night and adequately warm during the day. We have normally kept chickens in the brooder for three to four weeks or longer, depending on outside temperature. Well, these birds we kept inside in the brooder for about five days. It was plenty warm outside, so we put them in a corner of the chicken house with a long extension cord and a heat lamp. Worked great. The little guys got to stretch their legs and flap their wings and become baby chickens a whole lot sooner than any other bird we had ever raised. Hopefully, this will affect the overall outcome of these guys. We're hoping that they will be more mentally adjusted, if that's capable with a chicken. 

Another topic. We didn't hatch any meat birds this year. Well, actually we did, that was the cannibal group. All of those birds are gone, but the issue here is, we don't have any fryers in the freezer, and we also didn't can any chicken meat this year. The reason, mostly due to my back problems, which, by the way, are on a nice recovery path. So, the point here. We decided to order 25 meat birds. Not the big, white hybrid birds, but instead, 25 mixed heavy roosters. They'll be here in a couple of weeks at about the same time the baby girls will be 12 weeks and going out in the pen with the big girls, and I'll have pen space for the new babies. About 12 weeks after their arrival, I will butcher them. If there happens to be a stunning looking rooster among the group, I will keep him. If not, I'll fry him.

In one of the other posts I mentioned that there appears to be no logic, or consistency in my chicken patterns. And, as I stated then, that may be true. But, I enjoy mixing and matching different breeds, seeing what the outcomes look like when I hatch them. It's just something I find to be enjoyable and satisfying. We tried the Araucanas (Easter egg), and for me, it just didn't work out. Maybe a flock of 20 with one or two Easter egg birds, maybe, maybe not. Because my chicken house is much quieter now than it was two weeks ago. Much quieter. Less ruckus, less chasing and stirring, more peaceful.

Over the next couple of months, I hope to start getting lots of brown eggs, and an occasional green one. All of the white birds will be going. And eventually, some of the other birds will be, too. So, I wanted to keep you up to date and give you an example, that it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to change your mind. It's okay to do whatever you want to do. Because outside of your family, the only other person you have to answer to is your Creator. If you want chickens, go back and read the previous chicken posts. Or, if you'd like to see the antics of a small time chicken farmer, enjoy the posts. I'll let you know in a couple of months how things are going with the new baby roosters, and any other changes we make.

We'll talk more later.  Frank

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Nutrition of Green Beans & Some Pondering

Green beans are one of those All American foods, right? We all grew up knowing that we needed to eat our green beans because they are good for us. We had to eat them so we could have dessert, or some other preferable food. So, for all of these years we have continued to grow and eat them.

Recently, Frank and I were talking about this year's green bean crop, how they taste and such. We came to the conclusion that green beans are okay, but not something we really enjoy. If there is another vegetable option, we will normally choose something else besides green beans, or corn either, for that matter. It's an interesting revelation to come to after all of these years. 

Green beans are easy to grow and easy to can. Corn, on the other hand, takes up a lot of room and nutrients before it produces much. Most of the open pollinated corn we grow only produces one ear per stalk. We have decided that we won't grow corn or green beans in the garden next year. The corn we will just do without. We may try growing some field corn for the animals and to grind into corn meal, but the sweet corn we will forgo for a time. What we will plant are pinto beans. We have grown them once before and they are just as easy as pole beans.  A friend of mine grew pinto beans and initially picked them young and tender, to cook like green beans. We can do that, as well as let them mature and cook as pinto beans. Then, we will also be able to can them as pintos, or let them dry and store them to cook later. So, this is the result of our garden pondering lately. 

With all that being said, I still wanted to see what nutrition green beans provide, after all, we all know they are good for you. From one cup of snap green beans, boiled with salt we get the following nutrients.

  • calories 44
  • carbohydrates 9.8g 
  • protein 2.4g
  • vitamins A, C, K
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids

Our mother's were right, they are very good for you. There are many different varieties to choose from, both bush and pole beans. In our location, they don't have many pests. The grasshoppers like to eat the leaves, but it doesn't seem to deter the plants, even when they look rather dismal. Green beans and other legumes are great for fixing nitrogen in the soil and rebuilding an area that grew a heavy feeder, like corn, the previous year.

When we have moved from place to place over the years, corn and green beans are always one of the first things we stock up on. They are the old standards, easy to fix and have a dependable flavor. But after we get set up and have a variety of things to choose from, the corn and green beans kind of go to the back of the shelf. And now, they are going to be left out of the garden. We still have quite a few green beans left that we canned last year, which will eventually get eaten, or not. It's good to learn what works best, and what works best for us, will not necessarily work best with you and yours. It's something we all have to figure out for ourselves. So, happy pondering.

Until next time - Fern

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Life As We Know It.......

You are probably all aware of the phrases: Life turns on a dime. Things can change in a heart beat. Life as we know it, ended today, is a line out of a song. Well, on Tuesday life started out pretty normal.

Frank went back to his neurosurgeon for a check up. It's been eight weeks since his back surgery and he got a great report. Everything is healing up as expected and some of the restrictions he had can now be gradually removed. He can even start brush hogging the pastures again in a month. When Frank asked the doctor if he could go on any long trips, the doctor said no, it was too early for that. Just short trips for now. Our doctor's office is 60 miles from where we live, and for now, those trips are plenty long for Frank's comfort. So by the time we headed home, at about 6:00 pm, Frank was ready to be home and lay down to relax his back for a while.

But.......we got a phone call, and life changed quickly. My sister-in-law was calling to tell us that my brother had been in a serious motorcycle accident and was being flown by medivac to Tulsa. Needless to say, that is one of those heart stopping phone calls, none of us ever wants to receive. So, instead of going home to rest, we rushed home and flew through the chores, picked up my mom and headed to Tulsa. At this point we didn't have any idea how my brother was doing. About midway there we received word that he was awake and alert and joking with the hospital staff. This was unbelievably good news.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, at about 11:00 pm, my brother was in surgery and they had amputated his left leg just above the knee. He had lost a lot of blood and they were still working on getting him stable. The loss of the leg was initially a jolt for us, but there were still other concerns about his brain and internal organs. Miraculously, the only other injuries he sustained were some road rash and a pretty big cut on his head. No, he was not wearing a helmet.

After everything there was stable, and another brother arrived, around 3:00 am we decided to head home to care for Frank's back and the animals. Frank was definitely in need of some good rest, and we still had another three hour drive to get back home. When we finally arrived around 6:00 am, I sat down at my computer to try and unwind. I couldn't read or do much since I was so tired, so I thought I would glance down the blogroll and see what was new. It was then when I noticed a post from Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution. It seems that SciFiChick at Bacon and Eggs, passed away last week. I have enjoyed her humor and determination to grow and preserve food, despite the challenges she and her husband faced. I will miss her. That was enough reading for me. That day ended for us at about 7:00 am Wednesday, when we were finally able to lay down to get some sleep. 

Our rest didn't last long though, because around 10:30 am my mother calls and puts my injured brother on the phone. He sounded totally normal, "Hi, Sis. What are you doing?" I hear, much to my shock. Life as we know it did end on Tuesday and a new one has taken it's place. My brother has now had a second surgery to close up the amputation site, and will begin physical therapy. He hopes to be transferred to a rehab center closer to home next week, and before long, he will be fitted with a prosthesis. Then we will see. 

We have received many phone calls and emails from family and friends expressing love and concern for our family. This is one of those experiences that reminds us how fragile and fleeting life can be. My brother has a long road in front of him, but he is starting out on a good foot, the right one. He has a good attitude about what has happened. He even told the hospital staff upon his arrival that he was allergic to Jeeps. That's what hit him. Your thoughts and prayers on his behalf would be greatly appreciated. Hold your family close. 

May the Lord bless and keep you.