Milking Mamas, Busy as Bees

Big days on the wee homestead! The cucumbers are coming in by the bushel full, the lambs are dropping like rabbits, the mushrooms are growing like mad and the bees sound exceptionally pleased. I can’t keep up!

Luckily, Handy Hubby is here now every day, thanks to his ‘early retirement’ (that is his layoff six months ago) thanks to The Great Scamdemic. With his steady efforts and attention our place is shaping up beautifully and my stress levels have been reduced by half, even as chaos still reigns. For these are not the only new milking mamas, I’m now officially a milkmaid in training myself!

Welcome, Summer! Two piglets for a goat in milk was our barter with a friend. She’s settling in nicely and Phoebe was the first of the herd to greet her.

Learning to milk in humid and buggy 95 degrees F is every bit as pleasant as it sounds. 😏

Impressive udder and gymnast-like capabilities!

Handy Hubby crafted me a nice milk stand from plans posted by Fias Co Farms, a very good resource for goat newbies.

The chanterelles will surely give up very soon in this heat, so I forced myself to brave the mosquitoes and ticks once more to gather one last big basket full. I came across a new variety while hunting that’s not in any of my books, so I contacted Texas Foraging expert Mark ‘Merriwether’ Vorderbruggen, who identified it and directed me to this excellent site:

https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hexagonal-pored-polypore

Since our temps went from April-like to August-like overnight, I got stuck in a bit of a bind with the bees. Because I’m trying to work between 3 different hive types (very stupid, do not entertain this folly I would advise) I’m trying to get them to move of their own accord. It is working, but it is quite a slow process. I will eventually have 3 colonies from this one very full nuc without too much destruction or fuss, or at least that’s my plan.

To end I offer a true garden success. I’ve been experimenting a lot with companion planting, sometimes with advice from permaculture books, but sometimes just by my own observations. This year I planted sunflowers very early, before it was warm enough for the cucumbers and melons. My thought was to attract the bees to the garden like a lure down to the still small cucumbers. It’s worked like a charm and the trellises are bursting with activity.

I’m also trying some new tricks with the tomatoes, letting the cherry types go wild, but highly managing the large varieties and interspersing them with various herbs, lots of comfrey, turmeric and ginger. The results are not yet in on those efforts, but I’ll keep y’all posted.

Mmm, grapes, our favorite! Ta Ta for now

Flooded Dells & Chanterelles

Wow, what weather! We got 12 inches of rain overnight on Monday, far more than we’ve ever seen here. Unlike the tornadoes, hurricanes and hail, however, I don’t complain about the rain. This region was made for rain, and lots of it. It’s the droughts that are far more difficult to withstand, and far more unnatural.

Texas Weather Modification doesn’t respond to public inquiries and they don’t share data on all the various projects happening around the state, so who’s to say if this was all Mother Nature. Man’s tech being ‘proprietary’ after all, we peons and peasants are relegated to the realms of conspiracy theory. Folks will continue to deny the weather warfare schemes until the bitter end, I suppose. No one wants to believe man is manufacturing the weather, despite clear evidence right at our fingertips.

However, that’s beside this particular post’s point. This is what we woke up to, the sound of Niagara Falls outside our window! While still in bed I said to Hubby, “What is that sound? It can’t be wind, the trees aren’t blowing!” One look outside and I saw, that’s the creek that now looks like the Mississippi, flowing right over the road and bridge (sorry for the shaky camera, I was focused on the roar more than the image).

While we had several fence issues from the debris, lost a favorite old tree, and the electricity was out for a spell, it’s absolutely amazing to me how resilient nature can be.

The water was mostly receded in just one day and then, out come the lovely fruits as kind rewards for our losses and extra labor.

Chanterelles abound, the flowers and veggies are flourishing. The mosquitoes and ticks too, no gifts given without associated costs.

One delicious dinner of pasta in cream sauce with chanterelles, green brier tips and sweet peas. And another favorite tonight, pizza of course, which Hubby pronounced my best ever. Our own homemade cheese, bacon and sourdough crust certainly help the chanterelles sautéed in garlic butter make their best impression. .

While hunting chanterelles I stumbled upon a rather large patch of this rare beauty which I once mistook for a wild orchid. Actually it’s a Purple Pleat-leaf, in the Iris family. It’s gorgeous in the wild, but wilts immediately when cut. I carefully uprooted a few of the tiny shallow bulbs and transplanted them in the garden.

Hopefully the bees will find them as lovely as I do! If not, they still have their garden favorites.

“Seasonal Dissonance”

Related to the psychological term ‘cognitive dissonance’ this new Eco-socio-scientism-conspiracy term describes the thermometer and related mechanical device-reading temperatures that refuse to align with the visual and sensory data which would otherwise assure a concerned individual that the season is indeed changing.

A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles and lactarius indigo—lucky for me, I chose wisely. These are not beginner’s mushrooms and I was really nervous! (Hubby didn’t dare, citing the obvious need that, just in case, someone must live to tell the story.)

”Hmmm, roast pork with spider sauce? Not sure I’m feelin’ ya . . .”

Persimmon seeds in the feral hog scat is a better indicator than that blazing 90 degrees Fahrenheit that’s frying the kohlrabi and beet seedlings before they’re a centimeter above the soil’s surface. Don’t fool yourselves, it’s not just ‘Mother Nature.’

This is that tricky New Micro-Season in East Texas, thanks mostly to weather engineering I’ve no doubt, where no crop, or handler, understands what’s actually happening.

Cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalis)
Big Elkhart Creek 

The days are far too hot for the cool season, the nights far too variable for any season. The hungriest and most prolific garden pests are still proliferating, long from dead from potential threat of frost, but the hungry chickens are unable to benefit because said voracious insects are conveniently barricaded with the young greens and seedlings they so covet within the garden gates where there‘s narry a predator to be found.

If the past few years of weather whiplash are an example, we’ll go from shade cloth over our boxes to in need of frost protection within a few days. Maybe this time we’ll be ready for it?

The bees are as excited as if it’s spring, which gets me worrying. I plan to do some honey harvesting very soon. I have a mean colony who I’ve been giving the benefit of the doubt for well over a year now but who might get the permanent boot very shortly. I got stung in the eyebrow, again, just trying to maneuver around their hive, gently. Just in order to weed!

There’s just no call for that level of aggression around here; they’re clearly asking for some serious retaliation. Sure, the golden rod they’re feasting on was not my doing, but that tree groundsel, excuse me, a meager toll is in order, considering I planted that expressly in that very position for their exclusive benefit.

2nd favorite thing I’ve planted this year: Thai Red Roselle, makes my favorite Kombucha, another favorite discovery of 2020!

First favorite, check back to summer posts, Trombetta squash. We are still eating it!

40 seconds of Zen, OR, as long as I was able to sit still before swatting another mosquito on my nose

Homestead Happy Snaps

Bullied in my own hammock! Apparently she’s one of a great many in this country who have taken a few lessons in tyranny.

Ok, so I let her win, this time. At least I got an egg out of it.

I love foraging for mushrooms! I just really wish they were easier to identify. Like good sourdough, it’s serious business, but some folks make it look so easy.

I’m a novice, still, after years, but getting there on the slow boat. A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles sautéed in butter with a delicious sourdough I’m still trying to master. Along with a whole lot of mushrooms I can’t identify.

We can’t even buy bread like this in our area and I bet there’s a lot of folks in that boat. DIY! Here’s the expert to show you just how to do it: https://youtu.be/UF9dCkKhBnI

Just Do Better

Happy Holidays, y’all!  The passing of this year is quite welcomed for us.  It’s been our toughest year on the wee homestead by far.  There were even a few times we discussed giving in and packing up.

We moved here in 2009, after Hurricane Ike, having purchased raw land in 2006, after Hurricane Katrina.  It’s the new normal, I guess, that our memory is set by weather disasters.  Now 2019 will be marked as the year of the manufactured storm bombs: crazy tornado and giant hail.

Judging from the amped-up geoengineering agendas, who knows what next spring will bring—floods, fires, more ‘tornados’, unprecedented lightening storms, maybe a land cyclone or two—certainly continued weather whiplash will remain on the menu.

I don’t imagine it’s possible to prepare for every potential catastrophe, but still, we’re staying put.  It’s not that we’re gluttons for punishment, or like to live dangerously, or are too stubborn to see the writing on the wall.  It’s not even that we’ve come too far to turn back now, having learned so many of the essential homesteading skills, having devoted so much blood, sweat and tears, not to mention $$, into this lifetime project.

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We bought the neighboring property that had a nearly abandoned cottage, hauled off the old junk and then the real work began—paint, windows, doors, siding, deck, etc. And after the tornado, a new roof.

It’s for love.  Love of the land, the nature, the work, the critters, the learning, the lifestyle, and of course, love for each other.  Where else would two such misfits fit except in the woods, I wonder?

When there’s no turning back, and as we’re too young yet to sit still, but too old to start over, the best option left is to up-skill.  So, that’s what we’re doing.

Handy Hubby has transformed his butchering talents from mediocre to practically professional with the help of the Scott Rea Project.  It is truly impressive, especially considering  what big jobs he makes work in our very small space.

I’m following his lead by upgrading my own culinary crafts to include more traditional fare, like offal, which really isn’t so awful at all!  This’ll be my last bad pun in this post, I promise, even though I find them offally hilarious.

I don’t really follow recipes, but I’ve been finding guidance and inspiration from Of Goats and Greens and Weston A. Price.  I recently made a rather delicious Lamb Liver Loaf and an offal salad of heart and tongue. (FYI, it does not taste like chicken.)

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The upturned oaks have become the perfect microclimate for Jack-O-Lanterns (Omphalotus olearius), not edible, but an appreciated gift for a friend who dyes her own yarn.

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The hedgehog baked and the pulcherrimum as centerpiece

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An edible favorite: the hedgehog (Hericium erinaceus). And a ‘steccherinum pulcherrimum’ which means ‘appearing beautiful’

I’ll also be doing more foraging with the help of The Forager Chef  and a bookshelf full of expertise on mushroom hunting, wild plants and herbs, traditional cooking and healing.  I’m more committed than ever in holding space for, and gaining knowledge of, the ancestral arts and crafts that were missing from my childhood, and indeed for most of us for many generations in this country.

I’m not going to share any lame platitudes about silver linings and growth opportunities, because that’s slave-speak socially engineered by the faux-authorities to assure the rabble don’t complain about their lot in life.  I intend to continue my fair share of complaining, and then some.

But, I will offer this cliché instead—It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings!  And this lady’s got no plans to plump up any further, or join the choir.

May all your storms be weathered, and all that’s good get better.  Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you . . .”

 

Hunt-Harvest Happiness

There is a special kind of euphoria that comes from harvesting my own food that I have not felt in any other productive endeavor. I read somewhere that the worst day working in cooperation with the land is better than the best day in the office, and I must wholeheartedly concur.

If only I’d learned that sooner, I would not have such steep learning curves to navigate in middle age!

Mushroom hunting is certainly on the top of that steep learning curve list, not to mention a potentially deadly hobby. While there are actually only a few truly deadly mushrooms, there are many that will make you sick and quite a few choice species that are so similar to poisonous species that even experts are occasionally fooled.

For the novice mushroom hunter there are only a handful of no-brainer finds, and as the dogs and I walked our trails this morning, I spotted one of the choicest of these, the Hedgehog. Actually there were three, and I took the biggest, a whopping one pound ten ounces. Interestingly, the season of these mushrooms is winter, which makes me wonder, when it’s still an unseasonal 85 degrees Fahrenheit here and hasn’t rained in many weeks, how do they judge winter exactly?

hedgehog2

In the garden it’s the summer crops that are thriving—to accompany my Hedgehog mushroom I harvested some cucumbers, radishes, basil and Napa cabbage. The second crop of tomatoes this year are nearly ready too. If Handy Hubby were home I’d add to that some thinly sliced duck breast. Then I’d look at our plates and think wow, I can’t believe how often now our meals come from our own land, our own hands. What amazing peace of mind this is considering how unhealthful and/or expensive food in the grocery stores has become, with the distinct impression it’s only getting worse.

If I turn on the TV or read a newspaper I’m reminded I once considered the daily grind and the endless mindless consumption ‘reality’.  Now I often watch and read the various panic porn channels online and sometimes they get me pretty riled up.

Then I walk out to our garden or through our woods and I remember what is really reality. Civilization is not realty. And what we are currently calling civilization is about as far from reality as it gets.

Y’all can keep it! My happiness is in the hunt and the harvest and of course, Handy Hubby. All the rest of it is worth less than a hill of beans.

pttrail

Our faithful and exuberant foraging, hunting, harvesting companions. 🙂