Last week was almost a vacation, except for the part about breaking ice for the birds. We haven’t had rain for over a month and after the three nights of killing freezes in September, it really hasn’t been that cold, until Wednesday when we woke up to 16 deg F and a blown circuit breaker on the turkey and goose deicers’ line.
Luckily, we have an aluminum baseball bat R uses to hit grounders to dogs and threaten raccoons. It broke ice just fine, and then it warmed up, I found the faulty deicer, and fielding practice resumed after we rousted out the sundry winter gloves, mittens and hats.
Husbandry and gardening: The turkeys and three geese and the lone remaining chicken meet their destiny in a few days, but until then they are having a final hurrah, with grain twice a day. Based on the swollen rumens we see every night, the goats are enjoying the extended dry period-fallen cottonwood leaves are goats’ potato chips. I should rake up a bag or two for their winter snacks. But the goats still complain if their grain ration isn’t delivered by the time the shade of the trees reaches their pen in the afternoon.
Wyatt cut a pad on his paw somehow on one of our hikes. I had failed to reload our dog hike bag with blood clotting powder but his wound didn’t stop him from chasing the other dogs (we had some friends’ dogs with us too) and having fun. Getting a bandage on a dog’s paw is non-trivial and I’m really glad we have concrete floors today since there’s a bit of clean-up needed.
Food, harvest and preserving: R brought in the potatoes. We have been
arguing debating the merits of leaving them in the ground where they are cool vs getting them out and away from the slugs. He did some forensics and discovered that the slugs are only in the damper part of the beds, so maybe we can compromise next year by making a slug trap away from the potatoes. Anyway, I will clean, trim and dehydrate the damaged ones; even with the loss, we still have a huge cooler full of potatoes that should hold us for quite a while. No significant yield difference was evident between the Kennebecs and Daisy Golds-next year we will plant whichever does better in storage.
The kitchen tempo this week: on fire. I have been making tons of pantry food. I canned 7 quarts of mixed meat stock from duck, goose, pork and turkey bones that needed to come out of the fridge. Once the pressure canner was out, I decided I might as well can some pinto beans as well. Yes, store-bought canned beans are cheap, but these were already paid for, and it’s nice to have them ready to go into soups and casseroles.
Since the ducks are having an egg-laying vacation (about to end as R fixed up a light on a timer this week to reset their biological clocks), I made a half gallon of granola and some yogurt. This was the first time using the Instant Pot for yogurt and all I had was powdered milk and the package of dried starter in the fridge was dated 2012, but why not? It turned out to be some of the best yogurt I’ve ever made, so breakfasts are covered for a while.
Finances: The eating-from-the-pantry campaign is going strong. All I bought on this week’s trip to the grocery was half and half for coffee and some flour tortillas. R picked up a pork loin at Costco to make more Canadian bacon while we have decent weather to run the smoker.
Energy and conservation: Now that it’s been cold, I have been making a fire in the wood stove once a day. If I get it right, one big log will burn cleanly for several hours and that’s all we need until the next day or maybe even 36 hours. We installed the smallest efficient stove, a Pacific Energy Vista Classic (in a gorgeous red) that we could find that worked with our limited clearances, and even so it can put out a lot of heat.This is Wyatt’s first winter and he is far too interested in fire-making.
Other projects: I turned in our final report for our USDA Value-Added Producer Grant! After celebrating that victory for a couple of days, I started working on the details of a marketing plan that uses the analysis we got from our consultants. There’s going to be a lot more on this topic soon!
Community: Other than my regular weekly commitments for the Entrada Institute, I stayed holed up in the bunkhouse. That can’t go on all winter, but it was nice to have some down time.
Creativity and recreation: Three dog hikes in one week. Our friends are traveling and their dogs needed frequent airing out. C&W love playing with other dogs. We have to remember not to say the names of these particular playmates or Carson will start looking for them. These friends live next to some public lands that are perfect for off-leash dog walks and everybody gets a good tiring out. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
Next week: Poultry processing, smoking and making holiday plans and menus are next on the list. I was horrified to realize there are only 6 more weeks until Christmas.
Seasonal observations: Snow is in short supply on the mountains. By now they should have been more than a dusting that melted weeks ago. Even so, the cold has pushed the animals into their seasonal movement downwards. The deer are thick in town, grazing on the stubble in hay pastures and hiding in thickets of trees, ready to dash out at unsuspecting drivers. No time of day or night is safe; they are brazen and reckless. A friend saw a mountain lion kill about a quarter mile from our house, a natural result of the human-wildland interface we call home. I hope it moves on, for the sake of our goats and itself.