Self-Sufficiency Series

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tomorrow is another day

Since I'm not nearly as recovered from this nasty flu as I think I should be, my mind still doesn't seem capable of wrapping itself around anything profound or significant in either the news or even in my reading material.

And in that regard, it appears I'm in excellent company. That's because I've been trolling around various fashion and makeup websites in the wake of Rural Revolution's Stylish Blogger Award.


I take as much interest in fashion and makeup as I do in golf and pro-wrestling (which is to say, none). So why, you may ask, do I care what's featured on these sites? It's because I look at them like a train wreck - can't help it. They're so utterly trivial, so useless, so dumb.

Yet the people who run these blogs and websites DO take these issues seriously. So seriously that it's apparently to the point of everything else. Makes me want to say, get a life!


To be fair, if a reader of one of these fashion or makeup blogs were to stumble upon my blog, she would no doubt be equally appalled. Milking cows? Shoveling manure? Yuck! How gross! Doesn't this woman have a life?

And I suppose I can't get down too hard on fashion and makeup sites. There's nothing illegal or immoral about them. They feed huge international industries that employ millions. And women have taken an interest in fashion and makeup since the dawn of civilization, so my sour grapes doesn't change that historical fact.


I guess my concern is when women become so obsessed with the shallow to the exclusion of the serious, it makes me concerned that they won't be able to handle anything BUT the shallow.

On the other hand, I suppose I shouldn't worry. Scarlet O'Hara started shallow and look how she pulled off handling a war.

Awwww.....

I still haven't recovered my strength yet and Don's been wonderful about getting up early and doing my barn chores. In fact, I literally have not set foot outdoors since last Monday morning. Not one foot.

So today I booted up, got on a coat, scarf, and gloves, and stepped five feet outside to get something out of the car.

And Matilda, who hasn't seen me in a week, immediately came over for some snuggles and scratches and attention. You could almost imagine her saying, "Where have you been?"


Nice to be missed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

An award!

We here at Rural Revolution are proud and humbled to have been named a recipient of the coveted Stylish Blogger Award from the Big Kahuna of preparedness sites, Survivalblog.com


Now normally I'm always willing to avoid looking a gift horse in the mouth. But given the interesting name of this award, I was unable to resist doing a bit of research on it's origination. After many exhaustive minutes of investigation and over three pages of Google search results, I was (before I lost interest completely) able to trace the award back at least as far as a blog entitled "Missy Sassy Pants" who gave the award to another blog called "Delicious in Pink" in July of 2010. After careful perusal, I can certainly attest to the fact that both of these blogs are "stylish" although surprisingly neither blog dealt with the burning issues of this year's new BDU styles or the proper application of designer camo face paints.

Be that as it may, we here at Rural Revolution are truly honored that the folks at SurvivalBlog thought highly enough of us as to include us in their list of recipients. But receiving this award also comes with certain obligations. The recipient is required to post seven little known facts about the blog author as well as to pass the award along to 15 other recipients. (Interestingly, back in July of 2010 it was only five facts and five other recipients. Another prime example of runaway inflation.)

So since Patrice is still a little shaky from her recent bout with the flu, she unwisely allowed me to fulfill these requirements. (Actually I asked her if she wanted me to do this late last night while she was experiencing a fever-dream. I took "No! Not avocado!" as an affirmative.)

So without further ado, here are some little known facts about Patrice:

1. Rural Revolution is in fact a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow-Corning Int. Inc.

2. "Patrice" is actually a staff of five writers previously responsible for the popular TV programs "Little House on the Prairie" and, surprisingly, "Green Acres."

3. The picture of Patrice found on the blog was created using over 4000 separate pictures of other female self-sufficiency authors, all ran through a sophisticated morphing program to provide for the optimal visual attributes of integrity and honesty. (Separate bits of June Lockhart, Barbara Stanwyck, and Ma Kettle were added to provide a "country" overlay.)

4. All of Patrice's livestock are animatronic.

5. Many of Patrice's posts are actually penned by James Wesley, Rawles who occasionally feels the need to get in touch with his feminine side.

6. Much of the scenery shown on Rural Revolution was shot at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Recent snow photos required over 200,000 pounds of refined sugar.

7. The part of Patrice's husband is played by an actor suitably made up to increase his inadequate rugged good looks and sex appeal.

Don without makeup

Now as to those blogs we would like to honor with this award (in no particular order so don't get in a snit):

1. Bacon and Eggs

2. Preparing Your Family

3. The Survival Mom

4. Small Holding

5. LAF/Beautiful Womanhood

6. The Last Frontier

7. Gonzalo Lira (One of my choices)

8. Salt Creek Life

9. Old Lightning

10. The View From North Central Idaho

11. The Deliberate Agrarian

12. Hoof 'n Barrel

13. Total Survivalist Libertarian Rantfest

14. Amy's Humble Musings

15. Off Grid Survival - Wilderness & Urban Survival Skills

And a bonus because they're the best!
Paratus Familia

Survivalblog.com
(So Mr. Rawles won't come after me for the feminine crack.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Foods that outlive you

I found an article online this morning called Forever foods: 9 cooking staples that can outlast you (meaning, they don't go bad). The nine foods they listed are:

• Sugar
• Pure vanilla extract
• Rice (any type of white rice as well as wild rice -- NOT brown)
• Corn starch
• Honey
• Salt
• Corn syrup
• Maple syrup
• Distilled white vinegar

While there was nothing particular earth-shattering about this list - most preppers already know these items will last virtually forever - I'm finding more and more of these types of articles on mainstream news sites (this was on Yahoo). It's like they're a sneaky subtle attempt to educate the general public about food storage. While I applaud articles like this, I wish more people would pay attention.

By the way, this website - StillTasty.com - was referenced in the article. I believe it's a handy resource for learning the shelf life of many foods that are good prep items, such as oils, pastas, spices, etc. Check it out.

A Okie Farm Kid Joins the Marines

Here's a good chuckle a reader sent.
_____________________________________

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting so I like to sleep late… Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Sapulpa. I only beat him once... He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,
Alice

Back among the living

I'm baaaaAAAAAAaack! At least, back among the living. Oh my goodness, what a FUN time that was. Nothing like a rousing bout of the flu to make you want to crawl into a hole and die.

So glad everyone enjoyed my husband's hilarious takes on life. See why I love the guy so much? Not only is he STILL getting up early and doing my barn chores (and believe me, at -9F this morning, that's no small thing!) but he can even laugh about it.

I'm not totally recovered but I'm at least back on my feet. Needless to say I have tons of back emails to address and lots of stuff to post. We were going to write a follow-up article to the Living with Livestock piece and post it on Thursday, but that (cough) somehow didn't happen. So lots and lots of stuff to do.

Don suggested I write a new book called the "Yogurt and Influenza Diet" but I told him I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. Thank you all once again for your prayers and well-wishes!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Patient Update

Last night we moved the patient from the intensive care couch back to the managed care bedroom. First time I've slept with Patrice in 4 days. While still experiencing bouts of fever chill-sweat, her prognosis is good.

But enough about her. What about me?

My schedule:

(P) Those things Patrice usually does.
(D) Those thing I usually do.

Got up at 5am(P). Let the dogs out(P). Started the fire(P). Made my coffee(P). Drank my coffee(D). Suited up(P)

(Note: I can usually put my clothes on all by myself. Patrice hardly ever needs to help with the buttons and fortunately I own a pair of slip-on boots so the lace tying part is covered.)

Headed out into the 2 degree weather(P). Took three loads of hay by sled to the cattle trough(P). Released Matilda from stall(P). Chased the calf around in the muck trying and finally succeeding in getting his halter on(P). Got more hay for Matilda(P). Mucked out Matilda's stall(P). Dragged the muck to the compost pile(P). Filled the water troughs(P). Released the chickens(P). Got fresh water and food for the chickens(P).
Headed back to the house and re-stoked the fire(P). Finished coffee(D).

I'll stop there for now. As we can obviously see from the above, something is seriously wrong. No man should be forced to have his coffee drinking interrupted like this. I can so hardly wait until Patrice back to full capacity.


Me before Patrice got sick.


Me after Patrice got sick.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brief update

Hi folks:

Patrice here. I cannot even begin to thank you for all your prayers and well wishes. Don's delicate reference to being "under the weather" hardly touches on how ill I've been with the flu. I can honestly say I haven't been this sick in a decade. I've been melded to the upstairs couch (which became an unofficial sickroom) for the past four days, alternating between bone-chilling fevers and drenching sweats. I've had nothing to eat since Sunday night except a little yogurt to swallow down the ibuprofen/acetaminophen combo that knocks the fever down to manageable levels (for awhile).

Don and the girls have been stupendous, pitching in on all the housework and barn chores, especially in light of the amount of snow we've received this week which (at the moment, until someone can plow our road) has us snowed in. I'm blessed to have such a wonderful family. Thankfully everyone else seems to have escaped the flu, perhaps in part because I've been isolated upstairs.

Needless to say I'm miles and miles behind on my emails. Please be patient, I don't yet have the brainpower to read anything. (Don's been posting blog comments but I haven't read them yet - he's been telling me about them.) I'm not over this by any stretch and expect it will take me a few more days to feel anything approaching normal. In fact, after I post this it's back on the couch because I'm weak as a kitten.

But I wanted to take a moment to thank you all. Your kind wishes and prayers mean so much.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blind Fools

Hi all.

Patrice is still under the weather. She says thanks to all for your prayers and good wishes. It'll probably be a couple more days since it seems this particular bug lasts about a week.

Meanwhile, here are a few news highlights:

(Warning: The following contains abnormally high levels of analogy. Readers should use their own discretion.) 

White House Abandons Defense of Marriage Act

Dem Rep Tells Union Members: ‘You Need to Get a Little Bloody When Necessary’

Saudi Arabia Uprising Could Mean $140-Plus Oil

Number of U.S. hate groups on the rise, report says

"the biggest growth was in so-called "Patriot" groups, which the organization described as conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy."

FBI: Muslim Brotherhood deeply rooted inside U.S.

Lawsuit alleges FBI violated Muslims' freedom of religion

Oil Price Spikes as Tensions in Libya Heat Up

Half Of Libyan Oil Production, Or 800,000 Barrels, Now Offline
"Italy imports 425,000 barrels of oil each day from Tripoli:

Nomura Predicts $220 Oil If Just Libya, Algeria Cut Output

This is just a sampling of  my usual daily reads. Not too bad for a dumb woodworker from north-central Idaho, huh?  Now I may not be able to divine just how the banks are going to get out of the mortgage backed securities mess they created, (My guess would be some variation of an old country tactic called "shoot, shovel, and shut-up.")  but I can figure out on which side of the tree the lichen grows.

We are in serious trouble folks. But a majority of Americans, while beginning to feel vaguely queasy, still don't get it. The train has left the station. Most of the engineers have jumped off. Those who remain have jammed the throttle wide open in the psychotically optimistic hope that the out-of-control engine can make the jump over the chasm now that the bridge is out.

I said it's a sampling.

I simply got tired of cutting and pasting. Thousands of other signs and portents are out there for the reading. Government monopoly unions are planning "events" in a town near you. Unemployment keeps growing. 43 million Americans are getting food stamps.  Food prices continue to rise and the dollar continues to fall.  "Non-existent" inflation is eating your lunch (And has plans to invite itself to dinner as well.). Meanwhile Michelle Obama wants to see regulation created to limit our meal portions. I have good news for her. She can head off on another vacation worry free; we will all soon be eating fewer calories.

But the majority of Americans remain ignorant of their danger because... it's so blissful I guess.

The US economic camel's back is already broken. You can't see it clearly because it's belly is being supported by 300 million vertical soda straws. But each and every day the load is increased by thousands of additional bits of regulatory manure. And each day more and more of those straws are bending - and breaking. We can and will increase the load. We are fresh out of straws.

Get your house in order folks. Prayer will help...but help yourselves. And help those who can see.

Because those who will not see are blind.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Husband of the Boss (and current nursemaid)

First off, we seem to have received a very nice mention from over Survivalblog.com way.  If you're coming from that direction and haven't been here before - Welcome. Sit down and take your shoes off. Don't even think of checking your guns at the door, we prefer our guests remain armed.

Now then.

Howdy all. Patrice seems to be dealing with a touch of the flu. As you can imagine, this means that much of the house and barn work, while still being performed, isn't going as smoothly as usual. But...in the spirit of keeping things here on the blog happening, I'm going to post a humor piece I had published some time ago called:

What? Me Worry?

I am a Adverse potential prognosticator. Some of you may be scratching your heads (But be careful! Its possible that you might damage your scalp and cause an infection!)  Others of you have worked out the proceeding sentence and are dismissively saying to yourself, "Oh, he's a worrier. Big deal! Everyone worries." Au Contrair! (Gee, I hope I spelled that right. If I screwed that up, the readers might think I'm a dummy and won't read anymore. They might even write or call the magazine and complain. Then the magazine will no longer purchase any of my articles. They probably talk to the other magazines out there by way of some secret magazine email list and will tell them not to buy my stuff either! My career as a humor writer could be snuffed by a single miss-spelled word!) 

Anyway where was I?  Oh yes. We members of the Professional Adverse Potential Prognosticators (PAPP) smile uneasily at those who think that we are simply "worriers".  PAPP members are to worriers as Babe Ruth is to ahh...(Oh Lord! I can't think of a good analogy! disaster!), anyway, we are big time worriers.

As any big-time worrier can tell you, there are 3 levels or degrees of worrying. A Level one (or simple) worrier concentrates on single worries at a time. As an example, a Farmer might think, "oh no! the cows got out of the pasture, now I have to round them up". Actually that isn't the best example, because there is no such thing as a level one farmer. The most laid-back farmer is at least a level two, or compound worrier. Oh Geez!, the cows got out of the pasture, now I have to round them up. Wonder where they got through? Lord! There goes the rest of the day, fixing d--ned fencing!" (A side note of interest is how we farmers are able to swear with only a few letters and extraneous hyphens.) 

A level three worrier, operating at the highest level of worry, or Fret Level as we professionals call it, is an exponential worrier; to wit, "Oh no! The cows got out!......We're all going to die!!!!" 

So as you can see...Whats that?...Well, Yes, actually I did omit a few steps between the initial fact and exponential conclusion, but we PAPP Grand Master FussBudgets usually save time by skipping all the extraneous stuff in between. This is actually very easy, since the final conclusion for any level three worry is almost always total destruction.

So anyway....Huh?...Oh all right.  Just this once I'll diagram the complete worry chain. I will also make commentary along the worry journey, pointing out some of the subtle maneuvers that separate the world class worrier from the amateur.  Let's see, we begin with the cows getting out of the pasture. (Interestingly, many of my days and not a few of my nights begin with this scenario.)

1. The cows got out.

Just what does this mean? And why should I worry? Well, it means that a rather hefty portion of my net worth has left the safety and security of the pasture and is now roaming far and wide across the countryside and forests that surround our modest homestead.  Naturally, cows being, as H.P. Lovecraft so perfectly puts it, Eldritch Demons from the outer dimensions of time and space, the first thing they will do is stomp out mysterious and complex patterns in my neighbor's soon-to-be cut oat field. This is done so as to send a long awaited signal to the mother cow ship that the time for udder world domination is at hand. (I think that we can now safely put paid to the mystery of crop circles. Obviously farm fencing in Great Britain is substandard.)

Ah you say to yourself, thus the: "We're all going to die!" conclusion. Don't be ridiculous. No self-respecting world-class worrier is going to spend more than a few hours, a day and a half tops, fretting about such an improbable occurrence. Its too easy and besides, how could a cow wield a light saber or fire a  laser rifle without opposable hooves? Instead, we move onto the second level worry:

2.They are heading for the highway.

They always do. The nearest highway can be 60 miles away, but modern cows, equipped with GPS and some variety of bovine On-Star, will always head for the nearest main road.  Once there, the cows, displaying  the cunning usually associated with state highway workers, will spring (a truly ghastly sight, springing cows) out just behind a blind curve directly into the path of a unregulated tanker truck carrying unreported nuclear waste causing it to swerve across the center divider, directly into the path of a freight train filled with high explosives and highly refined liquid fertilizer! (oh the irony!).

By the way, sorry for the run-on sentences. Most really good worries depend more on commas and exclamation points than on periods.

Now, if I'm in a hurry, I could end my worry chain at this point since the requisite WAGTD! has been reached. But why stop now? I mean, I still haven't caught the cows, so I'm free to add new layers of worry over the others. So lets say that while running after the cows, or as is the case after the first mile, staggering, I might accidentally trip on the rough gravel road that leads to the highway. Unlikely you say? True, its only happened a half-dozen times or so.  If it does happen (and I worry that it will of course), I gain even more time for fresh and exciting worries.

How so?  Why its the result of the supernatural compression of nearly a month's worth of time into the 10 or so seconds it takes me to complete my 50 yard fall.  A 50 yard fall doesn't mean that I fall 50 yards, (or at least it doesn't mean that assuming I don't go off the road and over a cliff.)  No, it means that for the next 50 yards or so, the upper part of my body will be trying with great success to assume the horizontal, while my flailing legs are hopelessly, but heroically trying to maintain the vertical.

Oh the incredibly vivid and colorful worries I can generate in this zen-like state of suspended (I wish) time! Why, anxiety about nuclear explosions and flying cow parts practically disappear behind the swirling mosaic of dreadful potential inherent in a well executed (perhaps not the best choice of words) 50 yard fall.  And if THERE is a cliff ahead... Well, you have enough additional worry time available before impact to; marry poorly, raise ungrateful children, divorce, go bankrupt, and die in the shoot-out between the driver of an unregulated tanker truck and the Highway Patrol as you try to herd a bunch of springing cows away from the imminent explosion!

Whew! That was exciting. And naturally, at the end of your 50 (or, if you go over that cliff, possibly many more) yards...as your face rapidly approaches the gravel of the road or a dry river bed as the case may be... your final worry is of course, "I'm going to die", thus completing the chain of a really great level three complex worry.

The Purists among you might now be smugly noting that "I'm going to die!" and "We're all going to die!" are not the same thing. Well I say, if I'm dead you can d--n well do your own worrying.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Living with livestock

Of all the most longed-for hopes and dreams for serious Preppers, nothing is more wishful than a barnyard full of livestock. Chickens, cows, pigs, goats….whatever the species, the whole idea behind that dream is security. The security comes in the form of food that is perpetual. In theory, you cannot run out of food if you have livestock.

And to an extent it’s true. We don’t have pigs or goats, but we do have chickens and cows – and food security is definitely something they can offer. But with that security comes sacrifice.


We have some dear friends in Oregon who very much want livestock. They want chickens and a Jersey cow or two. They want to be able to raise their own beef and make their own milk products. They have the acreage and the barn space. So what’s stopping them?

It’s the fact that they also want to travel.

And I will be the first to admit, livestock puts a serious crimp on one’s ability to leave home. The fact of the matter is, once you gain the security of livestock, you also take on the responsibility. A part of that responsibility means accepting limitations on your freedom.

Recently we (meaning, all four of us in the Lewis family) wanted to go visit these friends. They live just far enough away that it would require an overnight trip. At virtually the last minute we had to cancel because we couldn’t find anyone to house sit for us. House sitting for the Lewises is a complicated business. Besides keeping our dog Lydia from attacking our dog Major (they conflict while in the house), the current list of chores consists of:

• Feeding and watering the chickens morning and evening
• Taking a head-count of the chickens before buttoning them up for the night (and, armed with a flashlight, hunting up any stray chickens that didn’t make it into the coup)
• Feeding and watering the livestock morning and evening
• Caring for Matilda (our Jersey) and Thor (her new calf), which are apart from the herd
• Working Thor on his lead-rope two or three times a day
• Mucking out Matilda’s pen (removing the soiled hay), dumping the old stuff in the manure pile, and spreading clean straw on the floor of the pen
• Milking Matilda morning and afternoon
• Straining and chilling the milk
• Feeding and watering the barn cats
• Keeping the woodstove going (unless you want to freeze)
• Et cetera ad nauseum

Anyway without a house sitter available, the visit to see our friends fell through. The girls and I later went on the overnight trip by ourselves, leaving Don home to mind the beasties. In a couple months, Don and the girls will go visit our friends and leave me home to return the favor.

Such is the nature of owning livestock. As a family, all four of us haven’t taken a trip together in over a decade. Business or pleasure trips always require one of us to stay home and mind the farm.

For some people, this is a deal breaker. Not take a family vacation every year? Impossible to contemplate!

But major trips aside, it’s the day-to-day upkeep that livestock require that can seem the most intimidating.

In some ways we have it easy. We work at home. We school at home. We don’t have to deal with commutes and overtime and school buses and other scheduling difficulties. Barn chores become part of the daily routine. But barn chores must be done, and done daily.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a howling blizzard or baking sun or pouring rain – the chores must be done. I’ll say it again: if you’ve taken on the responsibility of livestock, you have the responsibility to feed and care for them.


But it’s not all hardship. After all, we have our livestock for a reason, and those reasons are a big payoff for the limitations on our freedom. The livestock are an integral part of our “prepping” efforts – even before we were Preppers.

Prepping without livestock is rough enough. Prepping with livestock means some additional things to think through. We’ve have to “prep” for the needs of the livestock in addition to our own needs.

For example, we have a large number of mineral blocks we’ve stashed away because livestock need trace minerals as well as salt. We stockpile usable fencing materials as we find them. We’ve looked into ways to keep the stock tanks from freezing in the winter if we’re deprived of electricity (which powers the heating coil in the tank heater that keeps the tanks ice-free). We’re anxious to grow wheat and corn to grind and mix together for chicken feed. We are looking for ways to hand-harvest (if necessary) sufficient amounts of grass hay to last our animals through a harsh Idaho winter. (Scything 25 tons of grass hay by hand? Now that's an intimidating prospect!)

So should you get livestock? Assuming you have sufficient space to put them, my answer is: Yes and no. Yes if you can commit to them. No if you can’t.

Like everything else associated with Prepping, it’s best to practice and know what you’re doing with livestock before a “bleep” scenario. If you want to get cows or goats or pigs or chickens in order to survive a catastrophic situation, get them sooner rather than later so you know all the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with owning livestock.

It does no good to own guns if you don’t know how to shoot them. If does not good to store first-aid supplies if you don’t know how to use them. Both guns and first-aid require hands-on practice. Same with livestock.

It’s all fine and good to say you want a cow after seeing pretty pictures of Matilda and all the foamy creamy milk she gives, but do you know how to milk a cow? Deal with mastitis? Hobble? Lead? Halter? Do you even have hobbles, leads, and halters (in various sizes)? See my point? You won’t know what you need until you get the animals and start learning. And the time to start learning is NOT post-bleep.

Sometimes you just have to DO IT. I clearly remember when we got our first Dexter cow/calf back in 1998. I remember looking at the cow and thinking, “Poor thing, you don’t have any idea that I’m totally ignorant of how to take care of you.” Interestingly, I had the precise exact same thought when holding my newborn Older Daughter – an overwhelming sense of “Oh bleep, what have I gotten myself into?” Livestock, like parenting, is something we all learn on the job. All the books in the world won’t help unless you practice as well.

Believe me, I would not discouraging anyone from getting livestock any more than I would discourage anyone from having kids. If you have the room for animals, give it a try. If you want animals badly enough, then I’m confident you’ll learn what it takes to feed, shelter, and care for them.

The rewards of owning livestock are both tangible and intangible. For example, now that I’m milking Matilda again, I just made ice cream using fresh milk, fresh cream, and fresh eggs. For lunch I had some leftover pot roast from the steer we butchered last year. For tomorrow’s dinner I’m defrosting a chicken we butchered last year. We have literally tons of composted manure awaiting spring when it will be spread over the garden and worked into the soil, ready to feed our vegetables.


Our animals give us milk, meat, eggs, and manure. Those are the tangibles. But they also give us a great deal of intangibles – namely security and yes, enjoyment. On a summer evening, I love nothing more than to take a glass of wine and a good book and sit outside among the chickens (“communing with the chickens,” I call it). I love watching the calves gambol in the pastures in warm weather.

I love milking Matilda, even when it’s muddy and cold. I love the sense of security that comes from knowing how to care for and harvest our animals’ resources.

Maybe it’s because I’m a homebody at heart anyway, but I like living with livestock. I’ll never become a world traveler, but that’s okay. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to take. And if the bleep hits the fan, we will still have meat, milk, and eggs.

Signing book plates

We had a package waiting for us at the post office last Friday -- an innocuous-looking box that we thought contained a book or something.

But no - it was a box of papers. What kind of papers?


It seems they're book plates for the Simplicity book -- five hundred of them perforated into quarters, for a total of 2000 book plates.


Book plates, I've just learned, are signed by an author and affixed to the title page of a book. (It's apparently a whole lot cheaper to ship 500 sheets of book plates than it is to ship 2000 books for the author to sign.)


So my task over the next few days is to sign my name a staggering 2000 times. It's funny - I've signed my name a zillion times without giving it a second thought. But suddenly I'm fearful of messing up. -- misspelling or getting sloppy or whatever.


But sign I will - 2000 times! (Sorry, I can't get over the sheer quantity...)


Just another fascinating aspect of what's involved in getting a book published.

Cutting up

This is Jet.


Jet is one of our Dexter herd matrons. She's about nine months pregnant but we no idea of exactly when she was bred, so we've been keeping a sharp eye on her. For Dexters, I've learned that when their udders suddenly go turgid, birth is a couple hours away.

So anyway yesterday evening while Don was feeding the critters, I walked over to peer at her udder and noticed... a nasty wound. A piece of skin about an inch across had been torn off. How? No clue. Perhaps Ruby caught her with her horns. Perhaps Jet caught herself on a nail or tree branch. We'll never know.


At any rate I'm not too worried about it. Cows have an astounding ability to recover from some seriously ugly wounds. One time a calf tore a four-inch strip of skin from her leg. We snipped off the dangling skin and she recovered just fine.

Nonetheless I hopped the fence and, by pretending I was scratching her, I managed to smear some triple antibiotic ointment over the wound.


Such is country life.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Making ice cream

This week it's my turn to bring dessert to our neighborhood potluck, so in addition to a couple of cheesecakes, I decided to make ice cream as well. We have a full fridge with Matilda's output, so ice cream seemed like a handy way to use up some of her bounty.

Here's the recipe I used (for vanilla ice cream):

1 quart heavy cream
1 1/4 cups milk
2 t vanilla
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
10 egg yolks
1 T vanilla

1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, milk, and 2 t vanilla. Add half the sugar. Allow to just come to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar and 1 T vanilla.

3. When the cream is ready, pour a third of it into the egg mixture and whisk. Slowly pour the egg mixtures into the cream on the stove, stirring constantly. Heat until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon. Do not boil.

4. Chill custard until cool, then pour into the canister of an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

I got this recipe online, BTW.

I started with ten egg yolks.


Added vanilla...


...and half the sugar...


...and whisked.


Then I got cream and milk...


...and combined them in a pot with the rest of the sugar and vanilla.


I stirred until it just came to a boil.


Then I added a third of the cream mixture to the eggs and whisked...


...then slowly added the egg mixture into the cream on the stove.


At this point it's a custard. I gently heated it until it coated a spoon...


...then put it outside to cool for an hour or so.


We got our ice cream maker from a thrift store years ago for $5. Works like a champ.


Pouring the custard into the canister.


I have to crush ice cubes by putting them in double plastic bags...


...and smashing them with a rubber mallet on the kitchen floor. (Hey, whatever works.)


Our ice cream maker calls for one cup of rock salt.


Here I've packed the crushed ice and rock salt around the canister. (I later added more ice and salt.)


With everything assembled, I plugged in the machine and let it rumble and grind for half an hour.


The ice cream comes out yellow and rich. Very rich.


Scraping the ice cream off the beater into a bowl.


I put it in the freezer overnight and it will be a yummy dessert for the potluck.

Random pix

Here's a little girl in our church belting out a song. This kid - trust me - is NOT shy.


Distant swans on the lake.


Maternal Matilda licking her older calf Pearly (taken through a window, so not the sharpest).


Awww...


Full moon through some clouds.


Snap assuming the obligatory rooster pose.


More mommy love. Matilda is simultaneously licking Pearly and nursing Thor.


Making pizza (last night's dinner).


Pretty sunset last night.


It reflected beautifully on the pond...


...as well as the roof of the greenhouse.