Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Our Great Government at its Best

This is a cross-post I got from an aquaintance of mine. I think it clearly explains what the government is doing to the value of our money. Pay attention people! It's the future of yourselves and your children going down the tubes here.

If you are like many, who either doubt or just can't accept the idea of "the end" of America as we know it, have I got a story for you!

I've got a bunch of young employees, 20 somethings, who kinda-sorta watch the news and have more questions than answers - to which they always direct at me to tell them how to interpret (God help them)

Lately they've been asking me almost daily about the economy etc, and I finally gave in. I must have done a decent job, because they all just sat there - and said nothing (a miracle for this bunch)

To avoid mind boggling numbers that no one can really grasp (trillions), let's make this personal;

You make $22,000 a year (Fed Gov revenue is $2.2 trillion)
You spend $35,000 a year (Fed Gov [expenses] budget is $3.5 trillion)
You've been reckless like this for years and now you have $140,000 in "un-secured" debt-credit cards etc. (Fed Gov debt is $14 trillion)
Now the debt has become so huge that the INTEREST on that debt, is almost as much as your income - $17,000

You approach your family about cutting back - or at least not spending more than you make, but all you get is "why do you hate me so much?", "how can you do this to me?"

So you bring in some experts (Congress) but all they do is sit around - bitch and moan - and when push comes to shove, their "Grand Plan" includes a whopping cut of $319 per yr.

You get upset with them, and although some say they really wanted to cut more from your budget, others scream at you that to do anything more your kids would starve and your wife would be eating dog food.

There you go. You make $22k, spend $35k, have $140k in debt - and the plan for NEXT year is to spend $37k.
Not only are you spending $13k a yr MORE than you make, but the interest is now almost as much as your gross income.

You're smart though - or so you think, and you start printing money in your basement. But the creditors are pretty smart too. They KNOW what you are up to, and now they are making you pay 2 and 3 times as much, because your money is worth a lot less (because it's based on - nothing)

So tell me, how do you think the story ends?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jaba Scrabble

Broken Chinchilla Rex Doe

She is imminent for babies.  She has been nest building all day.

This is how I found her this morning, trying to remain comfy. Jaba the Hut rabbit.

Later on, she began building.

Sitting in the middle of her box, she started ripping hair out from all over her body. Mostly rabbits pull hair from their bellies and their haunches. Some rip from all over. I saw her pull some from the bottom of her feet!

As she pulled out her hair, she built a nice nest all around her.  I suspect there will be babies later on tonight.

Who knew POOP was so much fun?

It was warm and sunny for a while today. Good day to start cleaning the winter goat pens.
The babies found our work a lot more satisfying than we did.

Look What Happened Today!

Baby Goat!
My crossbreed doe Hollyhock had her first baby today.

She apparently did just fine, because this is how I found them mid-afternoon.
I haven't yet chosen a name.

Hollyhock seemed more interested in the camera than the fact that I was trying to look at her baby girl.

I will probably choose a flowery name. Might as well stick to the theme. Hollyhocks mom was named Honey and her sister was Venus Flytrap.

Planting the Garden in Freezing April

This past winter has been especially long and cold.
Now in mid April, some days are sunny and 50, some days are rainy and 34. Yuk!
Everything is muddy, sloppy and cold.

Yesterday, it was cloudy and 35. Towards the later afternoon, we started to get some tiny sprinkles, the kind that stab you in the eye if you are facing the wrong way.
So I had this crazy urge to get into the garden. It's been so long!

I already had some of my raised beds prepared. I had them filled with fresh topsoil last week when we had a warmer day.

I started with carrots. I was getting kind of windy. I planted Danvers and Little Fingers. The Danvers will get 6 or 7 inches long and the Little Fingers will be small, 3 inches or so, and they should be done 7 weeks from sprouting.
These are carrot seeds. Not the clearest picture, but the wind was trying to take them away.

I simply sprinkled them over the dirt, and raked over them lightly. Carrot seeds must stay moist, and take 3 weeks to sprout. The drizzle season is a good time to plant. They like it cool.

Next was beets. First, I used my two fingers to poke holes in the soil up to the first knuckle. Cold! Cold!

Then I dropped a seed in each hole and covered it up and lightly tapped the dirt flat.
These are beet seeds. They feel like hard styrofoam. They are very light and the wind will take them if you are not careful.  

Each seed is actually a cluster of seeds, and when they sprout, they must be thinned in order for the roots to have room to grow. These are Detroit Dark Reds. We really love pickled beets here.  The pack says to wait until after danger of frost.  We can actually have frosts up until the first of June, but I don't care. I want them in now, so call it an experiment. If they sprout, and frost threatens, I will cover the bed with plastic, or a sheet or something.

Third was the onions. By this time, I was getting rather uncomfortable and crabby.
I took a pointed hoe and made short furrows across the onion bed.

Then I put the onion sets in the furrows about 3 inches apart. I have both purple and yellow. I don't like the whites..too sharp in flavor.  The yellows are much better keepers, but the purples are sweeter.  It doesn't matter if you plant them together unless you are isolating for seed saving. I won't be saving onion seeds this year, so no worries.

Then I covered them up and covered the whole bed with waste hay. DONE!
Well, except the back corner. I didn't have enough onion sets. I will plant garlic there. I think I pated maybe 400 or so onions. YES, we use that many in a year.  I eat an onion everyday.  I love onions! and they are very good for you besides.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

TOLD ya winter wasn't over yet!

Yesterday, we got one (hopefully) last blast from Ol' Man Winter. Potentially, we could have more snow, and I remember a few years ago we had frost on May 31st, but lets just cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Smoked Potbelly....MMMmmmmmm..

Horror of Horrors! We eat potbelly. They are pigs after all, native to the deep wilds of Vietnam, and perfectly sized for the micro homestead. Especially in a survival type situation. They are fairly quiet, eat very little, and can be kept in a small area.  Our potbellies have been raised on scraps since they were babies. They get weeds, kitchen trash, veges and fruits, and anything that dies, such as a chicken or rabbit. They hate citrus and cabbage type products. Everything else is fair game to them. In the summer, they graze, and we feed them little to nothing through the warmest months.

We have one breeding pair and Jill gives us two litters a year. Her smallest litter ever was five and her largest, twelve.

This is the smoker Chris built out of a couple water pressure tanks. Some cutting, welding, and a little bit of  country boy know-how, wah-la. Mini-pig cooker.

What you see here is the rear half of a potbelly barrow, meaning a castrated male grown for meat. He was 15 months old, way beyond butchering prime.  We kind of overfed them through the winter. We had an extremely harsh winter, and were afraid they weren't getting enough, as their shelter was minimal.
Notice the absurd amount of back fat.

I suppose I could have rendered the lard and made something out of all that fat, but I didn't have time and  don't really know how to make soap at this time.  We do it skin on, because the skin holds all the meat together. You could sear off the fur if you wanted, but why add more work if you don't have to?

So, close the lid, and add wood. The door to the fire box is on the other side. Make sure to use maple, or fruit wood, as you don't want a nasty flavor in the meat. You can see in the picture we have a thermometer stuck in one of the vent holes. At times it was pushing 300 degrees in there.

This is what it looked like after about 4 hours in the tank.
Chris cooked it all day and all night, good and hot!

This is what he looked like the next morning. Crispy!

We pulled it off and laid the whole thing on a clean plywood board. We carefully peeled it open, and attempted to peel the skin off. It worked pretty well.
Now when it comes to flesh and fat, pigs are different than a lot of other animals. Their meat and fat forms in layers like a sandwich. That is why bacon looks the way it does.

This is a piece of meat I was able to peel off in one piece. Man oh man it was so good. It was mouth watering good. Every time I walk past the cooker, even after the fact, I can smell it. We made BBQ, we ate it plain, I put it on pizza mixed with beef.  I fried some for breakfast with eggs.  It was so good. The flavor was to die for. (Hungry yet?)
We have another one in there right now, and one to follow tomorrow. The leftovers I froze. When the second one is finished, I will can it all.

We have 4 more to go, as there were five boys in that group. Only two in the younger group, as we sold three. This delicious, continuous supply of pork cost us very little. 
In short, potbellied pigs are an excellent survival food source for the small family homestead.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Break-up on the lake

We drove down to the lake today to check out the ice. In late March. the ice starts to break up. 
If you have been following the news, you would know we had 10 tornados touch down here in northeast Wisconsin. Super high winds for days ravaged this part of the state. When winds like that whip across the lake during break up, beautiful, ugly things happen.

The ice starts to pile. Beautiful from a distance.

One problem people find, however, is when the wind is right, sometimes the ice piles onto the shore and takes out docks, decks, and the occasional sun porch. 
Aren't those $500,000 lake lots great?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tamworth pigs #2

So here is a current picture of Riptide, our boar.

The snow is starting to melt, and the winter pig yard is quite muddy. They love it. 
Rip is talking to his wife through the wire as she is confined on the other side.

She listens. Rip has been sleeping just on his side of the wire. He digs a body sized depression with his snout, all the while shoring up a mini-mud wall around his body hole, then lays down. When he gets up, the hole is dry, surrounded by mud-melt. Pigs are very smart!

The reason Moose is confined; she just had babies. 

This is her first litter. She is an enormous pig, and should have had more than 4, but they all lived, and she did everything exactly right. We don't have any intention of getting rid of her, so hopefully her next litter will be bigger.

Tamworth pigs

Tamworth's are our breed of choice. Although we have quite a few cross breed sows, I really love my pair of tams. I posted their baby pictures on the website about a year ago. They were cute orange things with looks of despair and fright on their little piggy faces.

Now, they are huge, porcine monsters. They roll in the mud, eat really gross things, and are as tame as can be. But watch out! They will knock you down for a bucket of feed if you aren't paying attention to what you are doing. The result?

So Much for Winter

Oh, the cold wind blows.
Hark! Grass! The cold wind is gone.
It's a sham, just wait.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Maple Syrup

Begin with the weather, followed by the tree.
Hook up a tube, wait and see.

In order for sap to run, the weather must be below freezing at night and 35-45 during the day. Sunny is preferred, but there have been days when it was 40 and cloudy, and the sap ran like dickens.
The ideal tree is, of course, the sugar maple, followed closely by the black maple. Other maples can be used, which we do, but the sugar content of the sap is slightly less.

Drill a hole in any maple greater in diameter than 10 inches. Very large trees can support several taps. The hole must be 1-3 inches deep and angle slightly towards the ground.  Carefully tap in a tapered spout and attach a tube, bucket, or bag. Different types of spouts support different types of containers. We simply use food grade milk hose and clean juice containers.

On an average sapping day, each tap will give about a gallon. During the last week of the season, there is usually a rush of sap and we have to collect twice a day to prevent the containers from running over.

We drill a hole in the lid, as opposed to leaving the top open. Bugs and wildlife love maple sap.
The sap must be collected daily and kept cool, or it will spoil really fast. Properly refrigerated, the sap will keep about a week.

When we have enough the sap gets poured into the evaporator pan.

The average yield is about 35 or 40 to 1. This means it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Thats a lot of sap!

This is a stainless evap pan. The fire box is built in underneath, accessible from the other end. We burn wood to boil down the sap.  As the sap boils down, it begins to darken in color.

This is the other end, and the finishing pan. You can see the fire box door below. The finishing pan gets the hottest and sap is added as the moisture boils away to keep it from scorching.  

As the water is boiled away, the boiling point rises. When the temperature reaches 7 degrees about the boiling point of water, the syrup is considered done. We usually pull it sooner. This gives us the opportunity to strain it and finish on a stove top for greater control.

You wouldn't believe how good boiling sap smells until you have actually smelled some. At this point in the process, I want to taste it SO bad, but I don't dare. It will melt your tongue into a useless puddle of goo.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why do I farm.

Why do I farm.
Because I like it.

This cold, wet spring morning, I notice many things.
I see the first blades of grass poking through the mud just after sunrise.
I hear the cry of baby goats as I bring a bucket of water to their pen. They sound suspiciously like human babies.
I smell the moisture in the air as the coming rain rolls over the lake.
I taste the hay chaff floating on the wind as it blows past my face.
I feel the calm yet excited attention I am given by prancing, dancing rabbits in their cages as I pass by with their feed.

Yes, this is Spring in Wisconsin.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April Fools! Yesterday

This post should have been yesterday.
Welcome Dolly-Rock Farms April Fools!

Registered American Oberhasli doeling, born on
you guessed it! April 1st, right around noon.
2 X grand-daughter of SGCH Singing-Spruce Macaroon Spritz 8*M
and GC The LLL Hucklebery Finn +B
grand-daughter of GCH Hazelridge-Farm Alexander +*B
grand-daughter of SGCH Hazelridge-Acres Angela'Slinde 3*M
and grand-daughter of the 2007 Nationals Grand Champion
SGCH White-Haven Toblerone 4*M

Let's just say I expect a lot out of this little girl.

Here in Wisconsin..Spring doesn't mean WARM weather!

If you live in the middle, zone 5, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and such, you should have tulips and crocuses, and other beautiful delights. In Wisconsin? hardly.

Just last week, we had a baby blizzard.  After hours of feeding and watering and shoveling, this is what you get in return. 

You KNOW its cold when you have to stand about and wait for the zippers on your coveralls to thaw enough to take them off.

The next day, beautiful, freezing and sunny!  What does that mean in Wisconsin? Danger from above!

When the sun shines bright,
Stay away from the buildings
You might lose your head

For days, we listen to the ice cascade down in thundering sheets.

The later it gets in the day, the sheets inch closer and closer to the edge, and when they go, they sound like a freight train.

Sometimes, they don't quite come off, and freeze that way over night, just to begin again the next day.