Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time to Get the Home Fires Burnin'

Although I promised to blog more on rabbits, my mind is turning to keeping warm. Since I'm sure that's what most people in cold winter climates are thinking that's what I'm writing about tonight.

We have a good start on a wood supply for our wood burning stove stacked on the patio. We are ready to start that fire that will be so warm and welcoming. We spent several years with a corn stove and although I'm sure they have been improved since that model was sold, I'm not a fan of them. We finally decided that in the event the electricity went out we'd still be without heat, due to the fact that electricity runs the auger that feeds the corn into the stove box. We were also replacing at least one part per year. Last year we switched to wood heat. Even if electricity/propane were free I'd still stick with my wood stove. There is nothing like the heat and the ambiance on a cold Nebraska winter night, plus, we'll still keep warm if there is no electricity and can even cook on the stove top if necessary.

The frustrating part of owning a wood stove for me, is lighting the fire. You can buy all kinds of products to get that fire roaring but I found a cheap and easy fire starter you can make with things you have on hand at home. I found this project some time ago and finally tried it today. Here are the quick and easy steps.

1. Take a cardboard egg carton and fill it with lint from your clothes dryer. I keep a jar on my dryer and add to it as I clean the filter.

2. Pour a layer of melted wax on top of the lint.

3. Cut each cup out individually and when using to light the fire, light the corner on fire. These will burn for quite some time.

Enjoy your cozy fire and keep warm.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Attached

It's been over a year since we decided to try our hand at raising meat rabbits for our own use. We brought home three Californian does and a New Zealand Buck. I had my qualms about starting this project again as our first effort over twenty years ago had a less than satisfactory end. In my effort to not get attached to the furry critters, I spent less time in their care than was needed and our efforts were abandoned. This time my husband told me to spend my time loving on the moms and dad and he would take care of the babies. You know what they say about the best laid plans. My husband is a pastor and many nights and mornings when it was time to do the chores he was called away and most of the bunny chores were left to me.

Our first litter produced a little gray rabbit that was different than any of the others. My husband promptly pick him up and pronounced him "Shadow" and perfect for a pet for our grandchildren. Eventually we realized the kids never got the cage they needed to take Shadow home and as he grew he was moved to a private cage to be kept as a pet. We now realize Shadow is a female and will become one of our mothers next spring.

As Shadows litter mates grew larger and the dreaded date approached, three new litters arrived. In one of these litters was the smallest little rabbit you have ever seen. He was about one fourth the size of his brothers and sisters. His little back bone stuck out and each morning my husband would announce that he had made it through the night but surely would live another day. As the days went by the little white bunny which we named "Mini" continued to grow and each day we picked him up and cuddled him at feeding time. We were both wondering what excuse we could possibly come up with to keep this bunny when my husband announced he though this would be the perfect pet for other set of grandchildren. Amazingly enough Mini is almost as big as his litter mates and there has been no indication that he will be leaving the farm. I wonder if he will be a new mother or father next spring?

Next : The Dreaded Day and Canning Rabbits

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's Elderberry Time

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Elderberries are ripening and soon I will be busy using the fruit to make products that will get my family through the winter months.

Elderberries grow wild in many areas of the country. I find mine in road ditches near my house. In the spring you can harvest the elder flowers to use in teas. In the late summer the berries turn to a dark purple shade and the stems they grow on droop down from the weight of the berries. They may look ripe earlier but it's best to wait until this time to harvest them. Do not eat the berries raw because they can make you sick. The leaves, bark, and roots are toxic.

Elderberries boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, improve vision and heart health, as well as treat coughs, colds, flu, and infections. They are very high in antioxidants. In 1995 elderberries were used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama. Double blind studies have been done that show persons that take 15 ml four or five times a day are likely to recover four days earlier from the flu.

It is a tedious task to take the berries off of the stems. Some people use a comb to gently remove the berries. I put the clusters in a paper bag and then store them in the freezer until I am ready to use them. When I take them out I simply crunch the paper bag until the berries release and fall to the bottom of the bag. I then put the ones I won't be using into freezer bags for later use.

I use elderberries to make jelly, tinctures, syrups, and cordials. In this post I'm going to tell you how to make a tincture as that is my favorite way to use the berries. It is also a very simple process. Simply put the elderberries into a canning jar and cover them with vodka. Let them sit in a dark place for a few weeks, shaking daily. Use a cheesecloth to squeeze all the juice from the berries. Then drain the liquid from the jar and discard the berries. Glycerin which has a sweet taste, can be used instead of vodka and is preferred by some for children. This tincture will last all winter in a dark cool place. Take two tablespoons every 6 hours at the first sign of the flu.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yarrow Time

This is the time of year that Yarrow plants are blooming. Yarrow has medicinal properties that make a great healing salve. It can be used to stop bleeding, reduce swelling, heal cuts, and bruises. Putting a small amount of salve on a tissue and putting in the nostril helps to stop a nosebleed.
These are the steps to take to make your own salve.
1. Once the plant blooms either tear or cut the foliage and flowers into one inch pieces.
2. Fill a jar to the top with Yarrow pieces.
3. Pour olive oil over the yarrow to the top of the jar.
4. Set the jar in a sunny place for six weeks.
5. Strain the oil with Yarrow through a cheesecloth and squeeze out all of the oil.
6. Melt bees wax and mix at 1 part wax to 3 parts oil.
7. Pour into jars.
Next time I'll tell you another tip for using herbs and flowers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No Excuses

In spite of my good intentions, the last three busy weeks at Beulah Land have raced by at a pace that has left my head spinning. The garden is planted and growing as are the rabbits and goats. Spinach, rhubarb, and lettuce is ready for harvest and the snow peas will be blossoming soon. The flower gardens are almost weed free.

We have found homes for Bluesky and her twin bucklings and they will be leaving us in about two weeks. The rabbits will be weaned next week. My second Buff Orpington hen is setting on a large nest of eggs and should be hatching soon. The first hen didn't manage to hatch any of her eggs. I don't know what the problem was. Maybe they got too cold.

Cold isn't a problem this week. I've been rummaging through my closet for hot weather clothes as I really wasn't expecting it this soon. Two weeks ago I was still wearing layers of clothing as I did morning chores. Only in Nebraska would it be 90 degrees with 45 mile per hour wind gusts a short time later. After several days of the heat and gusty wind the new garden transplants are looking a little worse for wear, but I think most will come out of it.

The laundry room is full of home made soap waiting for the festival on June 26th. This week I'll be working on my Miracle Salve and some natural flea powder.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Where does the time go?

This is the story of my life. I promised myself to update this blog at least weekly but that didn't last long. This time of year there are never enough hours in the day. There are so many things I want to do. I've been making a batch of goat milk soap every day off from work to sell at a festival at the local winery on June 26th so I'm getting down to the deadline. I've ordered some ingredients to try goat milk lotion. I can't wait to see how that works out. I've been weeding, weeding, and weeding the flower and vegetable gardens. We've started milking our yearling goat Mariah once a day since her single doe can't keep up with the milk and on the other side Bluesky is barely able to keep up with her two bucks who are growing at an amazing speed. She will be going to live with my friend Susan when they are able to be weaned so I'll have at least one registered Saanen buck kid for sale if you are interested.

Today I went on our annual field trip for the ladies of our church to the Bluebird Nursery in Clarkson Nebraska. It great to laugh and visit with the ladies as we shared gardening tips and dreams for our own flower and vegetable gardens. We were honored to be able to take Miss Lyda Jane with us since we took the church's wheelchair accessible van. She is one of the residents of the local nursing home that attends Faith Family Baptist. It was a long day for her and she was tired but happy as we returned her to the home with her new bird feeder and flowers. Most of my purchases were herbs but I did manage to stick a few flowers in the cart with them.

I'm adding a picture of our little bunnies. The are the first litters of our meat rabbits. My husband will take over caring them once they are weaned so I don 't get too attached to them. He was the one, however, that brought a little smokey gray baby in the house to our grandchildren, suggested we name him Shadow, and asked them if they thought they could talk their parents into letting them keep him for a pet. Sometimes I wonder just who the soft hearted one really is.

This week I'll be making freeze ahead meals and steam cleaning may carpet getting ready for house guests later this month. Mother's day weekend will be spent taking a trip to the Pella Tulip Festival in Pella Iowa with my mother, daughter and grandchildren. Next week I'll try to post some beautiful pictures of our trip. Happy Mother's Day! Terri Donnelly

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baby Goats!

I woke up at 4:30 this morning and considered not getting up to check the goats. I was so tired and I've decided Mariah obviously didn't get bred first time around. But I put my work coat on over my p.j.s, grabbed my flashlight and headed for the barn. In Bluesky's stall was a just born kid, still covered in slime and struggling for it's first breath. I ran to the house to rouse my husband. "Get up, get up, she's having them", I shouted. At the barn he picked up the newborn, checking to see the sex. "it's a buck" he said trying not to sound disappointed. We dipped his navel and gave him a squirt of goat energy, and returned to the house to make coffee and wait for the next one to be born. Our Anatolian Shepherd, Turk, was acting protective, regarding us cautiously with small warning growls to which we responded with a loud "knock it off". I waited for the coffee to drip, grabbed a cup and headed back to the barn. By this time the little buck was joined by a slightly smaller twin. I couldn't wait to find out so I entered the stall and lifted the slimy baby only to find that it was another buck. After tending to the new twins and making sure they had their first drinks of colostrum, we chuckled, wouldn't you know our anxiously awaited kids after many years since we last raised goats would be bucks. Still, we are thankful and satisfied to see two large healthy boys snuggled up with their proud mom.