What's your favorite way to preserve plums?

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, July 25, 2012 9:21 PM

Freya and I took a trip over to my friend Joe's place a couple of days ago to pick plums and visit the kids.  He is the guy who adopted Lulu's boys, Mac and Vango.  He also just adopted James Brown, a little lad I had to re-home.  He's now named Charlie Brown.  

Our friend Glen lives within walking distance of Joe's place, so he joined us after a while to pick some blackberries.  It was fun.  Little Charlie followed us all over the field, and Joe's Golden Lab Lola played fetch with us the entire time we were there.  That dog never wears out!  And she's such a sweetheart too!  

When it was all said and done, we managed to harvest 92-1/2 pounds of Santa Rosa plums and 2-1/2 pounds of blackberries.  We're still processing the plums.  Freya plans include sauce, syrup, BBQ sauce, salsa and pie filling.  I'm planning on making jam, syrup, sauce, BBQ sauce, pickled plums (think X-mas), and of course plum cordial.  I've also been researching cider recipes, so we'll see what I come up with.  Right now though, most are getting pitted, diced, and vacuum packed for the freezer.  Oh, I see some fantastic ice cream toppings in my future!

The blackberries?  They've already been processed.  I have a nifty attachment to my food processor that removes all the seeds so I just end up with the pulp and fruit.  This is already infusing a rather large volume of brandy in a 3 gallon carboy.  Now that's going to be some damn fine liquor.  

Nom nom nom...

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, July 22, 2012 11:37 AM

I think it's important to provide enrichment for domestic animals.  Whether you're throwing a ball for your dog or using a string to play with your cat, it keeps them stimulated mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

Caring for domestic livestock is no different in this regard.  If I lived on 10 acres there would be plenty for the critters to explore and do.  But here at the homestead, I introduce things into their environment that provide that extra bit of fun and joy and even a special treat that they have to work for.
Today's enrichment item for the goats is a HUGE pile of trimmings from Andrea's rose bushes.  Rather than dump them on the ground - boring! - I bundled them and hung them from the chains at the ends of my hammock.  I do this with lots of food treats.  It's a healthy way to supplement their normal diet.  It encourages their natural browsing instinct, forcing them to reach up and stretch out for their food.  Plus there is healthy competition for the best bits.
Goldie, a 4-1/2 month old Nigerian Dwarf is visiting the homestead to participate in Herd Camp.  She spent her first few months playing with small children.  Therefore she thinks she's a 5 year old human child.  By integrating her into an established herd she should learn how to be a goat.  This enrichment encourages her goat behavior and helps to bond her with the herd.  It's the old "breaking bread" tradition.
Boo, a 2-1/2 month old Nubian/Nigerian/? mix is visiting the homestead in order to wean her from her mother Ginny.  She's having the hardest time adjusting.  However the desperation in her cries for her mother has been substantially reduced this morning.  She's having the hardest time integrating.  Her voice is completely different from the Nigerian Dwarfs, so it's like she's speaking a foreign language.  But even with these challenges, she's doing remarkably well.  And she's a smart little bugger too!  She didn't want to miss out on the tasty rose branches but was timid to approach them at ground level.  Her answer?  Jump up into the crotch of the tree!  It's like being at the head of the table and having all she can eat without any competition.

In other stimulating news, the duck pond has been drained into the orchard (liquid fertilizer) and is ready to be refilled.  They'll be getting some feeder fish today which stimulates their natural dabbing behavior.  It also provides a mental and physical challenge which results in a physical and emotional reward.  Finally, it provides them with an excellent alternate source of protein that is appropriate for their dietary needs.

While Bonnie and Mary love this treat, it will be interesting to see how the 5 little ducklings react.  If their eagerness to eat every last little dot of duckweed I give them is any indication, it should prove rather entertaining.  Unfortunately, it will also be a short and supervised session.  Although they love swimming in the tub, they don't have much in the way of feathers.  So I have to pull them back out after about 10 minutes so they don't get waterlogged and drown.  That means the ramp to the tub has to always be up for now except when I provide enrichment for them.  Soon enough it'll be back to free access.  They grow so fast!

Believe it or not, in the time it's taken me to write this short post the goats have almost completely stripped all the leaves off of the rose branches.  They've now settled in for the juicy stems.  Nom nom nom!

Rabbitry Remodel - July 2012

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, July 11, 2012 4:00 PM

Sorry for the length of the attached videos, but I was just so damn excited to show this off now that the first stall is complete.  Here are a few details

Approximately 47 square feet of romping room in each rabbitry stall:

  • Lower level = 21 sq ft
  • Middle level = 12+ sq ft
  • Hideout roof = 3 sq ft
  • Upper level = 11+ sq ft
Cage on upper level can be closed easily when isolation is necessary, such as when Melissa kindles.

Entire interior can be removed quickly and easily when a total muck out is necessary:
  • Built using standard fence boards
  • One screw connects the cage to the first board on the upper level.  Wires suspend the balance of the cage from the roof (same as before).
  • Two screws connect the stairway to the bracket on the wall.
  • All level "floor" boards are not screwed in, but rather sitting on the horizontal supports so they can just be lifted out.
  • Hideout can easily be lifted out.
  • If a board becomes damaged, it only costs $2.05 to replace it.
2" x 4"s and Lattice door are reclaimed from other/old projects.

Although it's taken me about 10 times longer than it should have to build the dang thing (I'm working with a cam boot on my right foot), I have to admit that I'm pretty pleased with myself right about now.  I love it when things come together in the end.