No Such Thing As A Stupid Question?

No Such Thing As A Stupid Question?

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What Was I Thinking?

My 3 very smart daughters.  I have a very smart son as well, but he is just as hen-pecked as me so I don't include him in my gripes.

My 3 very smart daughters. I have a very smart son as well, but he is just as hen-pecked as me so I don’t include him in my gripes.

When I was expecting my babies I prayed, like most mothers, that my child would be smart.  What was I thinking?  Well, I was ignorant.  I thought wouldn’t it be lovely to have that smart child that was quick to catch on to things, that could make good grades, and be successful.  What I did not realize was just how much of a pain it would be to raise smart children!

When you have smart children you can’t sneak stuff by them- like hiding in a closet to eat Chips Ahoy cookies- they know.  As they watch you doing a task they are so quick to offer advice and point out your every failure.  I have lived almost 20 years with some squirt second guessing my every move and telling just how much better they could get things done than I could.  This third child of mine is especially cheeky- the major rub is usually because she does come up with better ideas than me.  Just today, she came into my bedroom and asked, “Are you going to get ready?” She was ready to go to run our errands and I was busy on my phone.  I informed her that I would get ready whenever I was bloody well ready and until then I would be on facebook!  Just who does she think she is?  So what did I do?  I got up and got dressed.  She is such a stinker, but one smart cookie!

All fussing aside, I am grateful for having smart kids even if they get on my last nerve.  We did have a good time getting the tire changed on the car and visiting my grandmother, their great-grandmother.  I have lived most of my life within 15 minutes of her.  Clara June has been the best grandmother anyone could hope for.  At 81 she is very active, gardening everyday and cooking great food.  It is from her that I have inherited my love of cooking and gardening.  The house she lives in was once my great-grandmothers house- there is so much comfort that comes from just pulling in the driveway.  As I headed down the country road that I know as well as my own face, I knew that there would be something blooming in her yard.  And there was, the Paperwhites have started the early spring melody that will crescendo in April with all sort of blooms and blossoms, I love to see those bulbs bloom.  Once these little beauties poke out of the ground, you can know that spring is just around the corner.

Cheyenne & Grandmother working in the flower beds.

Cheyenne & Grandmother working in the flower beds.

The weather today  was typical Texas spring- temps in the 70’s winds gusting heavy with humidity showing that a change was headed out way.  A cool front was passing through but the warm humid air did not go quietly.  All of a Texas winter (in my part of Texas, anyway) is basically summer not wanting to leave and hanging on for dear life while winter battles for control.  This results in balmy weather one day, snow and sleet the next or maybe in the same day.  Up and down like a yo-yo.  Finally, winter gives up and retreats leaving summer to resume it’s reign.  By April we will be back in the 80’s and maybe some low 90’s with May bringing 90’s- the last two summers we have seen triple digit temps in May.  Let’s hope that is not the case this year.

We worked in the morning filling transplant trays with compost and I bumped a few seedlings- only 120- before the storms ran us inside.  Wednesday will bring more sunshine and cooler temps.  On with the planting, March is coming soon and our selling season begins.

Beautiful Paperwhites on January 29th.

Beautiful Paperwhites on January 29th.

How To Make An Herb Infused Oil

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

Filling a large jar with citronella to make an infused oil.

There are many reasons for making an infused oil and all are great.  Really, the infused oils fall into two categories- for culinary purposes or medicinal purposes- because of all the great benefits of herbs, any  oil used for culinary purposes gets to double as a medicinal oil.  Either way, infused oils are made the same way- and it is simple.

You will need:

1 qt jar- clean and DRY

Desired herb

desired oil- I like to use olive oil, it is good for you and easily available.

Place 1/3 cup of dried herb in the jar, add enough oil to the jar to fully cover the herb.  Check jar after a few hours to make sure the herb material has not soaked up the oil and left any of the herbs exposed.  If this has happened, add more oil to cover herbs.  Make certain that your jar and all utensils are dry as moisture will ruin your oil.

Cover the jar with a piece of cotton cloth, cheese cloth or an unbleached coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.  Do not cap with a lid yet as the herbs may release gasses that can blow the lid off.  The results would be awful to clean up!  Let the oil infuse on a sunny window seal or the kitchen counter for at least 10 days.

After that time, strain out herb matter and discard to the compost pile.

The resulting oil can be stored in a glass bottle at room temperature for up to one year.

Citronella oil ready to steep.  Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Citronella oil ready to steep. Always label with name and date- leave nothing to chance!

Suggestions for medicinal oil-

  • Mullein for ear pain.- add a drop to the hurting ear.
  • Calendula will sooth and heal skin
  • Lemon Balm will help to sooth the nervous system.
  • Simply rub oil on skin and let your skin absorb the oil and use the herbal goodness.

Suggestion for Culinary Oil-

  • Lemon Pepper Oil- zest of one lemon, 2 tsp of multicolored peppercorns, 1 cup of olive oil
  • Garlic, Chili, and Oregano
  • Parsley and Cilantro
  • Basil and Garlic

There are so many combinations so explore and be creative!

Together Is The Best Place To Be…

Life partners in every way.

Life partners in every way.

Working together, as in owning a business together, is not for everyone.  I wish that every married couple wanted to spend every minute possible together, but they don’t.  I, however, look forward to every minute I get to spend with Tony.  We love owning our herb farm and working towards a common goal.  Today was a great day, I was with him most every minute.

There is always a plethora of things to do on a farm.  Whenever you get one project done there is another waiting in the wings to be started or there is a project that was completed some time ago but now needs to be re-done.  Taking down pens were on the list today.  The pen we were taking down was one that I had put up.  On a small farm, you are always looking for the best way to rotate pens and paddocks to provide the best for your animals.  Well, Tony and I had a disagreement on where the pig pen would be located.  We had a small pen within a large paddock where the pigs were currently living.  I wanted to repair the fence in the large paddock and let the pigs loose in that pen.  Tony wanted to move the pig pen over into the paddock already occupied by the goats.  We were at an impasse, but the kids agreed with me.  This “discussion” occurred during lunch one day.

Now it is rare that I openly challenge Tony or flat out refuse to cooperate.  That is just how we roll and it has worked really well for over 20 years.  Usually, I tell Tony what I think and if we are not in agreement with go his way.  If he turns out to be right, then I get to say, “You are so smart, I was wrong and you were right.” Then he is admired by the love of his life and all is good.  If I turn out to be right, then I don’t say a word about it, but he learns that he can trust my judgement and that I will love & respect him no matter what.  So, either way it is a win/win for our relationship.  And frankly, he is a very good leader and is usually right.

But this time was different.  He was not listening to the rest of us and at this time he was still a flight medic working over 80 hours a week.  The kids and I were managing the farm and really understood better what we and the animals needed.  As it was, Tony and the older 2 girls had a job to do at First Monday (a really huge flea market) and would be gone for a couple of hours.  So, I didn’t say anything else during lunch, but I had made up my mind.  As soon as he pulled out of the driveway I headed out the door.  I ordered Jonathan to drag cattle panels over to me at the large pen.  While Tony was gone I put cattle panels up around the pen and repaired the fence with pallets and turned the pigs out into their pen.  When Tony came home he was greeted by exuberant grunting and frolicking in the “new” pig pen,  and the pigs were having a good time, too.

He was mad, no doubt about it.  But, I was willing to risk it this time.  I absolutely hate to have Tony mad at me.  It took a little while, but we were talking again.  I asked him what was his first thought was when he pulled in, to this he replied, “Do I have to answer that?”  He didn’t need to, after 20 years with someone you can pretty much guess what they are thinking- at least you should be able to.  Now we laugh about it and he admits that this time I was right.  This is how a healthy marriage works, even with all the aggravation that we cause each other, we still look forward to being together.

The pen came down today and we will use the panels to fix the new pens for the animals and land we have leased.  There was no fighting, just enjoying the warm sunshine and hard work.  After lunch I left Tony with Jonathan and loading the trailer.  I headed into the greenhouse.  Lots of dill was moved from seeding tray to the cups.  220 plants to be precise.  Dill took up all my time, so Basil, Summer Savory, and Horehound had to wait.

Some lovely friends came by the farm today.  Jim and Connie Gibson are a sweet couple that we met through craigslist.  We bought a bottle baby goat from them and we are now very good friends and ironically neither of us are raising Boer goats. Now, we both do herbs.  Hollyberry Herb Farm had our first plant sale of the 2013 season.  Connie’s business focuses on culinary herbs and they sell wonderful dried herbs. You should check them out, if you need dried herbs or herbed salts this is the place to go!  C&J Farms in Corsicana.

Electrolytes For Livestock

When I need to give an animal electrolytes this is the recipe I use:

Electrolytes

1 quart of water- boil and let it cool

Dandelion greens and roots- place in the water after it has come to a boil, the herbs will steep as the water cools, strain before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.

1- tablespoon of honey, corn syrup, or molasses

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

Mix all together, except greens,  put in bottle for babies use a large syringe to drench adult animals.

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.

 

 

My Honey Isn’t Feeling Too Good…

Tony loves to hunt.

Tony loves to hunt.

Tony has been sick, to be honest sometimes it is hard for me to be compassionate when he is sick.  The trouble arises from the fact that when I am sick, Tony totally deviates from his usual way.  Normally, Tony would go to the moon and back if I wanted something.  I am spoiled and I know it.  But when I am sick it is a whole different story.  He can be such a jerk.  For example, when I had just had my wisdom teeth cut out and we were in the car on the way home, he looks over at me and asks “What’s for dinner?”  Given that I had cotton packs stuffed up in my mouth, I had to resort to sign language to reply….  Tony doesn’t know sign language but I am pretty sure he understood and nothing was lost in translation.

Well, we have both come a long way since then.  Tony is a great guy and for those of you that know me- you know that he puts up with a lot more than I do.  Thankfully, he is on the rebound and didn’t get as bad as I was two weeks ago.  And I must say, Tony was perfectly sweet during that time.  He took off yesterday but was back work.  I was glad for him to get home.

Sierra and I made a trip to the library today.  We stopped at Old Navy, she didn’t find anything.  She is going to be a page in Austin, our capital this spring and we are looking for business professional clothes.  But when you are tiny and long legged that can be a tall order.

Herbs were bumped today- Borage, Milk Thistle, Annis-Hyssop,  and Dill are now in 4 inch cups.  More Dill, Basil, Mullein and more are waiting for me on Wednesday.

Everybody Loves A Brown-eyed Calf!

Oh so cute!

Oh so cute!

One thing that we have loved on the farm is bottle feeding animals.  We have bottle fed calves, goat kids, lambs, piglets, rabbits, and squirrels.  I must say the bigger the animal the easier they are to feed.   We have been without bottle babies now for a year and we have all been missing it.  Another thing we have been missing is our own beef.  Once you have had pastured beef the stuff in the store just won’t do it for you anymore.  Last February we bought calves with the intent to raise one for beef, but they all died except my heifer calf, Tallulah.  In farming, you win some you lose some, it’s just the way things are…

As I have mentioned in prior posts, Jersey Girl Dairy sells raw milk and it is some great stuff.  We were looking for calves and decided to give them a call.  Indeed, they did have calves, bull calves already a month old.  Getting older calves is a great thing because you have made it past the most vulnerable days in the calves lives.  The stress of being transported, started on milk replacer and finding themselves in a new home can be too much for a young calf.  However, if you are patient and do your homework, you can buy day old calves and do very well with them.  Before last February, I had a really good track record and had lost very few.  The key is starting them on an electrolyte solution for the first 24 hours, then you go to milk at half strength for 24 hours- if there is no diarrhea- then you go to milk at regular strength.  If diarrhea starts, you go back to electrolytes and work your way back up.  I have developed my own recipe for the electrolytes that also has herbs in it to combat illness.  Also of most importance, you must wash the bottles after each feeding.  At the beginning I used bleach to kill any germs lurking around, but now I use vinegar.  Strong vinegar kills any and all germs and bacteria without the harmful side effects.

However,  with these boys being a month old, they were not bothered by the trip and had completely normal poop when we fed them their evening bottles last night.  So this morning, they had milk at half strength in their bottles.  Jonathan and I just returned from the evening bottle trip and the poop was normal, so starting tomorrow we will feed milk at full strength.  It is better for the calves to be a bit hungry for the first 24-48 hours than to overwhelm their guts with too much change.  All of us, animals included, have good and bad bacteria living in our guts to digest food and such.  The key to having good and bad bacteria present is for their to be a balance- more good than bad.  When stressful situations occur, the bad bacteria can multiply and get out of hand.   The first indication of this is diarrhea- this accounts for my preoccupation with poop.  Animals can’t tell you what is wrong you have to watch for signs and poop is an excellent indicator.  By starting them on electrolytes and then milk at half strength, we are giving them time to adjust without giving their guts too much to do at first.

Jersey Girl Dairy

Jersey Girl Dairy

I was pleased with the conditions of the calves pens.  Some dairy’s don’t put straw or anything else down in the little pens leaving the calves to sink up to their shins in mud and muck.  These calves had clean pens and straw.

Jonathan and calf

We have been using this crate that Tony built for several years now.  It is great for small livestock, you don’t have to hook up a trailer for a small load.  All animals we have transported, lay down and get comfy.  The truck cab provides a wind block but we like to add the tarp for good measure.

Holly in the barn with the calf.

Once you get the calves home you have to get them to the barn!  Tony could pick one up as he was a little fellow, but this big boy was too heavy to carry to I am using a lead rope to help him along.

injured calf

We have never seen this before, but this calf has lost part of his tail.  Once we had him loaded in the truck, the dairy farmer’s wife noticed that he had poop dried around his tail.  She went to remove it while saying that sometimes if the poop dries on and cuts off circulation that the tail can come off.  Just as she finished saying this, the lower part of the tail came off in her hand.  Please don’t think that these folks don’t take care of their animals, they do.  However, when you have so many to take care of and manage things can get away from you.  Problems with animals arise quickly and things can go too far before you know it.  We almost did not buy him because of it, but he is such a well built calf that we didn’t want to pass him up.  So, it was time to get out the vet supplies.

Holly mixing ointmentHolly doctoring the calf.

I have a body butter that I make with herbal oils that are known to help heal the skin.  I mixed this body butter with Echinacea and Goldenseal to fight infection.  Before I appled this to his tail I drenched the tail with iodine (otherwise known as Monkey Blood).  Once I had the iodine on, I smeared a heavy coating all over his tail.  It worked well, this morning it was still on and dried up nicely.  To wrap it would have meant changing the dressing and chance for infection due to the fact that the wound would not have been able to breath.

IInjured Tail on a calfJonathan and the calf

The calves are kept in separate stalls. .   Even though bull calves don’t have any teats (cow nipples) they do have something else that does hang down and well, baby calves will suck on anything…  We learned this the hard way when we kept several calves together.  Needless to say, it was disturbing and we got pens built in record time.

It looks like a mirror image, but these are the two boys in their stalls.

It looks like a mirror image, but these are the two boys in their stalls.

We are happy to have bottle babies again.  This is the part of the farm and homesteading that makes all the hard work fun and worth it.

This Week Is Off & Running

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.

Jonathan & I feeding the new calves.

Well, Monday dawned bright and clear and found Tony and me headed down the road.  We were headed to Jersey Girl Raw Milk dairy to purchase our new Jersey calves.  I love that drive, small Farm to Market Roads winding  though rolling hills and woods.  It is a lovely part of Texas and a drive through it for any reason is like therapy.

We picked the little fellows up and headed back to our farm.  I have a full blog post coming about them, but I am too tired to write it tonight.  Once the calves were settled in their stalls, I started in on Monday’s chore list.  Laundry was done, linens were washed and hung out to dry (where they are still because I forgot to bring them in…)  All the stuff that gets all over the house was picked up and put back where it belongs.  Homeschooling was done and the run to the feed store was made.

On Sunday, I started sorting my recipes that had been collected over time.  This is the second set of sorting to be done on my recipe book.  In the first sorting I pulled out all the recipes I had actually cooked and liked and grouped them in a new binder.  The others were left in the old binder to be dealt with later.  Later  had arrived and I sorted them out by category and had them all over the table.  Paperclips came out today and I clipped each category together to be integrated into the current binder at a later date.  As  I sorted, I was wondered how I could possibly have this many recipes.  Then it dawned on me- I was a foodie before there was such a term.  There was no Food Network, I faithfully watched the Frugal Gourmet, Nathalie Dupree, and Burt Wolf everyday on PBS.  I still have hand-written recipes that I scribbled down while they cooked.  20 years of recipe collecting and developing leads to a lot of recipes.  Now those are being tamed into a functional book that my kids will fight over when I am gone (whatever). Now the dining table is of use for meals again.

Chef Jonathan- making fried pork chops.

Chef Jonathan- making fried pork chops.

Once the house was back in order, I headed out to get groceries at Sam’s.  I do like that shopping trip and this time I was alone- how unusual and how nice.  When I returned home about 7:30, dinner was being finished.  Jonathan (my eleven year old son) had made fried pork chops and hand-cut french fries with his own seasoning mix a green salad rounded out the meal.  That boy loves to cook, he is the only one of my four who is by my side every time I cook.  He is quite good at it, too!  Grilled pork chops were on the menu but the grill ran out of gas.  It is nice to see that he can be flexible, as well.  Tony did help him out a bit, the burner was too high and the pan started to smoke.  He is still learning.

Now to bed, Tuesday brings bottle feeding, a trip to the library and lots of planting in the greenhouse.

 

A Little Kitchen Up-Do

Large pickle jars hold the flour and sugar.

Large pickle jars hold the flour and sugar.

We upgraded our refrigerator up to a large double unit set, this left a empty hole that the fridge once called home.  What to do?  I have always admired the baking areas set up in kitchens where all things related to baking would be organized together.  It seemed like a good time to give this some thought and a trip to IKEA really got me to thinking.

We had some table legs bought at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and some salvaged barn wood.  With a couple of shelf braces and some white paint to add some interest to the wood, and we had a great baking area coming along.  I am very pleased with the results.  This project was done in the summer so I have been using this for 6 months.  It is great.  We all love it.

Cast iron shelf bracket picked up at a flea market

Cast iron shelf bracket picked up at a flea market

This is the hole, the little shelf has been put in.

This is the hole, the little shelf has been put in.

All done with baking suplies and mixer

All done with baking suplies and mixer

A Day For Changed Plans

“All dressed up with no place to go…” Have you ever heard that saying?  Well, that was me this morning.  I was dressed with my hair done and even make-up on!  It was about that time when I was ready to walk out the door that I realized my keys were not to be found.  It seems that Tony took them to work with him in his bag.  Needless to say, I was peeved.  I was really looking forward to my Master Gardener meeting.  Oh well, the best laid plans.  What was crazy it that later in the day when Jonathan could not find a drill bit I began searching the junk drawer looking for a bit I found a key that looked like it should go to the car.  Guess what?  It did fit my car, but now it was 11:30 and the meeting was ending.  You just gotta laugh!

So, I shifted gears and then went on about my day.  It was a good day despite me not getting what I wanted.  I finally got in touch with the gal at The Jersey Girl dairy, they have 3 bottle calves and we are picking them up on Monday!  There are only a few things cuter than Jersey calves, I can’t wait.  Bottle feeding is time consuming, but it is really fun.  There will be lots of pictures coming, I am sure.  In the past we have bought them at the sale, which is a challenge because of the stress on the calves, but overall it has gone well.  We developed a routine that kept everyone healthy and happy.  These little bull calves are already a month old so that will be really nice.  The jersey steer, Porterhouse, made the best beef that I have ever had.  We are looking forward to a full freezer- in about 18 months.

This is a bottle calf from days gone by.

This is a bottle calf from days gone by.

Even though we had beautiful weather today, I did not work in the greenhouse.  Until the seedlings develop their first true leaves, I am waiting.  Gardening will teach you two things- the sense of urgency and patience.  But never fear, I was not without things to do!  I have had a project waiting in the barn.  A pig waterer has been on my list for a while.  I bought the components awhile back so today seemed to be a good day to start it.  I found the directions on line at this site.  There will be a full post on this when I am done.  Today I drilled a hole and put the spout in the pipe.  There was  a very small leak that will be fixed with epoxy and I need to glue the cap onto the end of the PVC pipe with some plumber’s cement.  I couldn’t find any cement so I am hoping that Tony has some stashed.  If not, I will hit the hardware store in the morning.  Once finished, the water pipe will provide water for the pig without the pig being able to make a mess of her pen or her water.  Because pigs are so strong you must go to extreme lengths to come up with a water trough that the pig can’t or won’t flip over to get water and mud to wallow in at will.  I am looking forward to this water pipe, kids who show pigs use them frequently.  I choose the thickest walled pipe available, I have seen the strength of hogs.  With the large diameter and long length, we shouldn’t have to fill it up very often.

The water spout in the PVC pipe

The water spout in the PVC pipe

Etsy has been a job I have been working on and it has been slow going.  It would make it easier if I had more experience at this sort of thing, but I don’t so it has been a learning process.  One of the things that had me held up was shipping the products.  After a trip to the post office this morning (before Savannah left in her car and before I found a key to mine) I felt so much more confident.  Sunny, my sister, will be receiving a surprise in the mail (unless she reads my blog) and I will know how the packages fared.  The shipping cost was not as much as I had expected, that was a good thing.  Things are shaping up.

Herbal Oil & Sea Salt Scrubs- ready to be purchased from Hollyberry Herb Farm

Herbal Oil & Sea Salt Scrubs- ready to be purchased from Hollyberry Herb Farm