Counting Blessings, Cutting Loses, Culling Critters

A respite from the heat, but still no rain. We surveyed our fenced land for grazing and have come to the sad conclusion that our intention last year to grow the herd will not be achieved in the near future.

Seemed like the right thing to do, growing the herd, considering food inflation and especially high meat prices, and the fact that Hubby is here full-time now, and that more bartering/trading could be in the foreseeable future. But, the parched land screams otherwise.

Between the steeply rising cost of feed and the meager forage available, and no guarantees the stranglehold of the weather terrorists will let up any time soon, we come to some difficult decisions.

We will wait another year to freshen the goats, drastically reduce the number of sheep, and breed back only one sow. We will maintain the poultry flock as-is for the most part, but had hoped to add ducks once again to the mix. No rain means fewer bugs means more supplemental feed. So that plan is not looking too good now either.

Planned building projects are also getting postponed. A ‘milking parlor’ was on the list, some much-needed repairs to the deck, rebuilding the greenhouse, a field shelter for the herd, and on and on, plans are easy, implementation, not so much!

We are blessed with an already achieved minimalism: Living seasonally, frugally, well-acquainted with the boom-bust cycles of our overlords and still small enough to be flexible, and with enough local support to know we’ve got each other.

Our most crucial long-term goal remains: Growing our own feed—perennials as well as annuals.

We hear the word ‘sustainable’ repeated multiple times a day these days, but there’s rarely anything truly sustainable being suggested.

It’s 99% hype and green washing. But actual sustainability does exist, and the more self-reliant we can be, the closer we are to achieving it.

How do we measure up?

And it’s not like there’s not plenty for us still to do and learn here, even with squeezing the belt tighter.

I’m still very interested in herbalism, especially as it pertains to our local environment. The best things in life are free, or nearly so, no?!

And while I do appreciate the allure of the consumer life, I’m far more fascinated by the natural world all around me. It’s always a matter of slowing down, observing ever more closely, teasing out the potential of all that is all around me, and some of that certainly means our local community, but that doesn’t just mean the people.

I’d love to learn more wild crafts, as well as more fine art tuning; more science, and more speculation; and much, much more about where and how these endeavors mesh.

There is a different brand of “More!”, isn’t there, than the furious Billy Idol sang about?

Or, maybe it’s all the same, in the midnight hour?

Nature’s Myriad Mysteries

Every day on the wee homestead brings some new mystery, most of which go mostly unsolved. No need for UFOs, Jesus’ image on your morning toast, or Big Foot sightings around here—we’ve got baffling bees, mystical mushrooms, and unexplained murders.

I’ll start with the most dramatic. A rancher neighbor was terribly shaken up and recounted a recent disturbing event at their place, meaning to warn us. They found two calves bleeding, one dead, one still barely alive, which they had to put down, the injury was so severe.

She had been crying, as I would’ve been as well, and told me in their nearly two decades here they had never seen such a thing and had no idea what creature had done it. It wasn’t any kind of injury they recognized or have had to deal with before. Each one had a single tear right up its undercarriage, with the entrails spilling out, and nothing eaten. Coyotes being our typical predators around here, I inquired along those lines and she shook her head, clearly, not this time. We do hear stories about panther sightings on occasion, I myself thought I saw one once too. But again, the gnawing question, predators don’t just kill calves for the fun of it. Two calves killed, no markings or traces of a struggle, and nothing eaten. That is a mystery I prefer not to think too much about.

So, quickly, on to better stories!

I have an update on the bizarre ‘mushroom blob’ from a recent post. Over the last weeks it has developed into typical bracket or crust fungi. While now at least it is generally identifiable, the mystery still remains, because bracket mushrooms grow on trees, not under vines in regular garden soil. There is not even wood mulch on the top of the bed where it’s growing.

The fungi when I first found it above, and again today, below.

My only guess is that the mycelia network is coming up from below this raised bad. We threw a bunch of wood chunks down before piling on the soil. But, that might be a stretch, as I’ve never heard of these mushrooms growing on anything but living or dead bark. I just don’t know.

Mushrooms being my second favorite mystery after bees, we end with a sweeter little story.

This bitternut tree was all abuzz with activity this morning. It’s hard with photos to get a sense of how many bees were working it, so there’s a short video clip below for the sound effects.

We couldn’t help but think it was such odd bee behavior, because nothing on this tree is blooming—no pollen, no nectar. Yet the bees were clearly eating something off the leaves. So, we licked the leaves, and they taste sweet! I have no idea why this would be, but the leaves seem to be exuding some kind of sap. The bees have been all over it all day, so it wasn’t just morning dew.

This sounds like the simple sort of mystery a local arborist could solve for us. If I find out, I’ll be sure and let y’all know, so you don’t loose any sleep over it! 😆

How Lies Land

With all the obvious lies flying around the entire Mediated-Sphere, I got to reminiscing about my former best friend at university who was an unrepentant liar.

The story of the end of our friendship still hurts to recall, 30 years later. I lost not only her friendship at that time, but that of the circle of friends we shared as well. A double whammy, if you will.

While I understand there are always (at least) two sides to every story, I haven’t spoken to her since those days, so how she recalls these events, or if she recalls them at all, I don’t know, and I don’t care.

I’m recounting this story now because I see in the public in general there are FAR too many who are too hesitant to tear themselves away from liars and the clearly corrupt institutions they are running, which I know will be to their detriment in the long-term, as well as to the detriment of us all.

The longer you wait, the more entrenched, and accepted, the lies become.

I share this story as an appeal, yet another one, and a warning.

My little story is inconsequential to everyone else but me. But it does have an accompanying lesson from which anyone could benefit.

This friend and I were so tight we shared a studio apartment and were nearly inseparable for several years. I met her at the beginning of my freshman year, not long after I met my boyfriend.

To make a long and dramatic story short and succinct—she was sleeping with my boyfriend all those years behind my back. After he and I broke up, she still didn’t tell me about the two of them. Then she got pregnant by him, but I still didn’t know. She asked me to borrow money and I asked why. She became very secretive.

I heard from another friend she had been reading my private journal, because she wanted to find out if I was still in love with the ex-boyfriend. I got suspicious and tried to talk with her several times about it all, but she waved me off each time. I refused her the money and she got livid. We got into a screaming fight. I was still baffled by it all because I didn’t know the real issue—that she was pregnant by my ex-boyfriend and wanted the money for an abortion.

Even after all that, I would’ve forgiven her, if only she had come clean. She never did. I wrote in my journal, which I knew by then she was reading, that it’s not the lies that break trust so much as the refusal to face them even when confronted. The cover-up was worse than the initial lies.

Why? Because that’s where I learned every single person in our circle of friends knew about their liaison except for me. For years.

It wasn’t about the boyfriend, either. I’d have handed him over with pleasure, had she ever asked. But then, that’s the whole point for a narcissist, or someone intent on winning at any cost—it’s not as fun if you don’t steal it—fair and square.

She deflected, made excuses, minimized, tried to turn the tables. She showed no remorse, would take no accountability, refused to apologize, or even to listen to me, or show me a shred of compassion.

You might think it was the humiliation, or the betrayal, that caused me so much pain and that guided my decision-making after that point. But as painful as those were, that was not my breaking point.

No. My breaking point was being honest with myself about the content of their characters that had become glaringly obvious at that point, so much so that I could no longer stand to be around them. Any of them. They could not look me in the eye. They would not show an ounce of remorse or try to understand my pain or my position.

It was really, really hard, but I walked away.

I wish I could say that was the last time I made such a mistake. No again. It took another couple of decades for me to correct this issue. It took until the point I realized that it was my fault.

Of course I don’t take any blame away from her, her behavior was deplorable. But, I also knew her moral standards were low. I knew she’d done similar things to other friends. I just thought, because I was more loyal to her, a better friend, more honest, more committed, I could inspire her to not play me that way. I should’ve known better.

Giving such people the benefit of the doubt, and second chances and third chances, is not loyalty, or strength, or courage. It is enabling liars and it is highly damaging to self-respect.

She went on to become a pharmaceutical rep. I have little doubt she has still not done enough soul searching to realize or regret yet another move down the low road.

And this is where we stand in America. We are being lied to by those all around us, by those who have positioned themselves as our betters, our leaders, our trusted officials, our media.

They are lying. The time for excuses is over, already decades ago. The problems we need to face will not be fixed by voting for the next Liar In Chief. To continue on with the charade at this late date makes you a collaborator by every definition, no longer able to claim innocence or ignorance.

LIVE NOT BY LIES
“On the day Solzhenitsyn was arrested, February, 12, 1974, he released the text of “Live Not by Lies.” The next day, he was exiled to the West, where he received a hero’s welcome. This moment marks the peak of his fame. Solzhenitsyn equates “lies” with ideology, the illusion that human nature and society can be reshaped to predetermined specifications. And his last word before leaving his homeland urges Soviet citizens as individuals to refrain from cooperating with the regime’s lies. Even the most timid can take this least demanding step toward spiritual independence. If many march together on this path of passive resistance, the whole inhuman system will totter and collapse.”

by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney, The Solzhenitsyn Reader

Mushroom Abundance

While just two hours away Dallas was getting flooded, we got a measly two inches. Certainly not enough to fill the pond or raise the creek or get the ravines flowing again.

But it was enough for a crazy number of mushrooms!

I was collecting mushrooms for several days afterward, including some first-time-finds—a choice edible and the weirdest mushroom I’ve ever seen.

The ‘Giant Blob’ mushroom? These are all through one of our raised beds planted with sweet potatoes, scattered throughout the vines.

Mushrooms popping up everywhere.

And now on to the good stuff!

Foraging for anything is just about my favorite thing to do in decent weather, and mushrooms especially. But in hot, sticky weather there better be some bang for the buck, as the saying goes.

Especially because the chiggers thrive here when it’s hot, wet, and humid, so shorts and sandals are not an option.

Last year with our very wet spring we had chanterelles all summer long. We’ve had very few this year, so this nice haul has been a real treat.

“Chicken” mushroom — Laetiporus sulphureus

Hubby found this ‘chicken of the woods’ on a rotting Oak tree while feeding the pigs. It’s a first-find for us here and is considered to be a good “Beginner’s” mushroom, because there are no similar mushrooms to it which are poisonous. It’s very tasty in cream of mushroom soup and does indeed have a texture similar to chicken breast.

Another new find is considered to be “choice”—related to the shiitake mushroom—Lentinus lepideus.

Found on rotting pine, which there’s loads of around here, so it’s surprising we don’t find them more often. I’m going to try to cultivate them!

We got a marvelous wild harvest right in the back yard. These “Pink bottoms” (Agaricus campestris) are very common and closely related to commercially cultivated mushrooms in the grocery stores.

They resemble another common yard mushroom that fools a lot of folks—the toxic Chlorophyllum molybdites —including me once when I was a beginner. It was an excellent lesson considering spending the night hugging the toilet has made me a much more cautious mushroom hunter!

These two often grow together as well, preferring the same conditions, sometimes in ‘fairy rings’. When they are very young the gills of both look white, while still mostly closed.

As they open, the good ones have pinkish gills that change fairly quickly to chocolate brown. The toxic ones have greenish gills that get a grayish-olive tone with age.

The ‘campestris’ after a few hours on the left and another fresh from the yard on the right.

And to make matters more confusing, once a little older and browned they could also be confused by a novice with another yard mushroom, the ‘magic’ mushroom, the common psychedelic Psilocybe cubensis. The very bitter taste will be enough to figure that out.

And now, for the grande finale . . . the most perfect specimen of Macrolepiota procera I’ve ever seen! A delicious edible, fairly common wherever there’s been ruminants wandering, like quite a few other wild mushrooms.

It’s the System, Stupid

To me this entire story positively reeks of stagecraft. But, even if we take it at face value it demonstrates how screwed up our food system really is.

MONDAY, JAN. 26, 2015 PHOTO In this Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 photo, cows are milked on one of the carousels in a milking parlor on the Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Ind. Fairlife, which is rolling out nationally in coming weeks, is the product of a joint venture between Select Milk Producers, a dairy cooperative, and Coca-Cola. The product is filtered to have more protein and less sugar than regular milk. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Here’s the story in tiny nutshell: The McCloskeys were sued for animal cruelty at their dairy farm following an undercover employee’s secretly videotaping several instances with four workers involved. Now a settlement has been reached:

Completely denatured milk sold as natural, tasty and healthy

The Fairlife ads, cartoon milk dresses.
Classy.

A $21 million Settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed against Defendants The Coca-Cola Company (“TCCC”), fairlife, LLC (“fairlife”), Fair Oaks Farms, LLC (“FOF”), Mike McCloskey and Sue McCloskey (“the McCloskeys”), and Select Milk Producers, Inc. (“Select”), relating to fairlife and FOF Milk Products. The lawsuit alleges that Defendants falsely labeled and marketed certain dairy products produced using milk from cows that were allegedly not treated humanely. Defendants deny all allegations and have settled this lawsuit to avoid further litigation.

The Court has not decided who is right.You may submit a Claim Form to receive 25% of the average retail purchase price, up to $100, for your purchases of fairlife Milk Products and FOF Milk Products, if the products were purchased for personal use and not for resale, and were purchased on or before April 27, 2022. Claim Forms submitted without Valid Proof of Purchase will be capped at a Cash Award of up to $20 and Claim Forms submitted with Valid Proof of Purchase will be capped at a Cash Award of up to $80, subject to certain adjustments (upward and downward) depending on the number of claims submitted.

So, there’s video evidence, but the Court has not decided who is right. Must be so confusing, poor kids.

But you get some money anyway if you can come up with your milk purchase receipt, potentially from 2015. Brilliant.

In an interview the McCloskeys talk about all the fantastic improvements they’ve made to garner public trust once again in their dairy products since the video’s release, and the broad coverage of ‘the scandal’ by MSM (I do believe they neglected to mention the product line was owned by Coca-Cola, but I may have missed that part and really do not care to re-listen. It was annoying enough the first time listening to Mike Rowe pander to these creeps).

What I did hear in the interview was how proud the McCloskeys are now of their complete video surveillance system, how they are well on the road to becoming ‘Net Zero’ so that they can help curb climate change as responsible business owners, and how very excited they were to see the gleam in the eye of the school children who came there to tour their facilities and were so thrilled to see cows being milked by carousel machine.

Now they might grow up to become mechanical engineers, Mrs. McCloskey beamed!

I’m so excited for our Green future too, aren’t you?!

Fun With Goats

No, I don’t mean Goat Yoga, that’s just dumb.

Really, yoga’s not enough torture for you, you need hooves to the spine, too?!

We love our goats, but not inside, duh.

New screenplay idea: Goats Who Stare At Men!

Because of the heat and drought the best forage is close to the house, where we are regularly watering. It’s good for the goats, and for us it makes for better entertainment than most TV. There are drawbacks though. Like they eat pretty much all the plants, not just the ones we want them to eat.

And they tend to follow me around, waiting for the extra special treats I bring them from the garden, like their favorite, sweet potato vines and morning glory.

Feeding frenzy

And they want to climb on everything.

Going out on a limb
Just out of reach!
“I’m too sexy for this grass”

Our once somewhat peaceful morning coffee now attracts a team of show-offs. (I don’t think Bubba approves, considering what they do to his bed.) They do giant leaps off the deck, too, that look a lot like the tricks snowboarders do, but not on cue, unfortunately.

Please feel free to enjoy 2 minutes of Chez Kensho programming!

There Must Be 50 Ways

. . . To ruin ravioli.

Just choose the wrong tool, fool
Then screw up the cheese, Steve
Don’t gum up the dough, Joe
And roll it out slow . . .

Hehe, just playin’. My mom used to love that song.

Granny requested in the comments that I use yesterday’s failed ravioli as a teaching moment. As open to that excellent idea as I am, because I agree that failure is the best teacher, still, it’s hard to teach anything when you still suck at it.

We only ventured into homemade pasta last month after buying a hand-crank pasta maker. Hubby started us in the adventure, brave man that he is. He read the directions, watched some vids, and proceeded to cursing his way through a batch of fettuccini, of which a good portion went to the pigs, because the ‘noodles’ were so scrunched and mis-shaped they’d never taste right.

They always make it look so easy in the videos! Alas, manuals and videos are no substitute for hands on failures.

He tried a second time with somewhat better results, but was still discouraged. Enough so that I knew if I didn’t step up to the plate soon the new machine would end up in the back of the storage closet only to be seen again during spring cleanings.

And I know for sure ravioli is going to be my thing. Eventually. I just love to play around with fillings and shapes and assemblages and finger foods.

Ravioli is not a finger food, you might be thinking? But, toasted ravioli is! Which is why I had Mom on the mind, because it reminds me of growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, from where this popular dish originally hails. It was on the menu of every bar and pizza joint in the region. We ate it often, and it’s so delicious.

You’d think I’d try to master simple ravioli first, right? Nope. Gotta go for the gusto first time out. At least I did it with less cursing. (Hubby was in his man cave, and so can’t verify that fact.)

I learned immediately that the special ravioli attachment was a nightmare-level mistake and quickly gave it up.

When I wrote yesterday that it was all ruined, that was before tasting it. It actually wasn’t too bad. It only remotely looked or tasted like the dish I was going for, but at least it didn’t have to go to the pigs.

As for the multiple learning opportunities, where to start. The filling was very tasty, and all from the homestead (diced liver, sausage, onion and basil), but it wasn’t diced finely enough. That might have worked out ok, except that the dough was drying out too much, too fast, because it’s so hot we have the air conditioning blasting in the kitchen with extra fans blowing, too. To try to moisten the dough sheets just made them gummy, and whether too dry or too gummy, they still tore quite a bit when I tried to form the filling between the sheets.

The dough sheets were getting stuck in the machine on one side and crimping up, I’m still not sure why. So I tried using half the recommended dough amount for shorter sheets, which worked better, but they were still somewhat lopsided with very ragged edges and some small holes and tears.

I thought I might still be able get away with it, because ‘toasted’ ravioli actually means ‘deep fried’. What better way to hide broken dough than with another layer of egg, flour and breadcrumbs, right?

Except my homemade breadcrumbs weren’t fine enough and uniformly-sized like the store-bought varieties are, so while deep frying they didn’t cook evenly. Some parts were burned, some hardly browned. My ratio of edges to filling was way off on some of them, leaving large edges so crunchy they tasted more like dough chips.

The results reminded me of that McDonald’s skit by the young Eddie Murphy!

I’ll take it in stride, and give it another try, before throwing the machine in the back of the storage closet. 😒

Homestead Happenings

Just posting some happy snaps to distract our attention away from all that’s dying in the garden. And the fact that the hens have mostly stopped laying, our oldest goat is looking dangerously thin, the grass has turned crispy, and there’s no end in sight.

Bubba trying to keep cool

Still, the kids are growing like weeds.

Walnut’s nearly as big as her mama already (back left) and even little Athena (front) is catching up to the rest of the kids.
Morning glory, another goat favorite

The birds and the bees are still doing their thing while we can’t manage to stay outside past 11 am.

Unfortunately, so are the ants. The leaf-cutters are slowly destroying our young fruit trees. Only the more mature pear is escaping their attack.

Almost ready, fingers crossed!

Plants are simply amazing. The purslane and arugula are growing fine and make a great pesto. The sweet potato vines are a goat favorite, the okra’s just coming in, the peppers and watermelons are still hanging in there.

The zucchini hasn’t given up either, and somehow we still have broccoli that’s not bitter.

Just as the old cucumbers got bitter, the new volunteer is producing like crazy. Not too shabby! 😁

Homestead Happenings

Time to wine!

It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s miserable. Every day we enter the garden and the orchard knowing we’ll find something else dead.

First it was the tomatoes, then the salad cucumbers and cantaloupe, now it looks like even the tomatillos are giving up before ever producing well. The squashes are all struggling and the peppers and figs are mostly stalled.

I wish that meant it was time to rest on our laurels and have some long, slow and sweet indoor days of movie marathons and Kombucha cocktails.

But no such luck, because it’s time for making wine!

Our painstakingly cultivated Muscadine grapes are not doing well, we expect a minimal harvest, at best.

But, the native Mustang grapes are a lot tougher, apparently.

So, fortunately! We’re still able to make some wine and jam.

Did I mention it’s really F’ing HOT? And dry?

I’d whine a lot more, except I keep going back to the miracle of all the critters and plants who can take it so much better than we can. Though, I know they are struggling too, and are just less whiney than I am.

And just for those keeping track, the ‘chemtrails’ have not abated.

Rebel Canning?!

Drama in the canning community? This sounds serious. Especially now that it’s coming home to roost.

Or is that roast?

Yes, now that Hubby has enthusiastically taken up canning, there’s trouble brewing in Kensho paradise.

It’s not only that he dominates our small kitchen for hours on end, heats up the house with his fancy pressure canner, or is filling every conceivable space with his jars. It’s not even that’s he’s far better at it than I ever was.

No, I’m generous that way, perfectly willing to share in the glory.

I am, however, growing weary of his methodology. His modern, high-tech, USDA, strictly by the book, precision style is beginning to conflict with my laissez-faire, look how the old timers did it, just wing it attitude.

I suggested we try the ‘Open Kettle Method’, which for the record is taken directly from my 1933 Kerr Home Canning Guide.

He quips, “No way, it’s not approved.”

Huh?

And I’ve just learned we’re not alone in this clash. There’s some fiery online debate—wouldn’t you know it—as in politics, so in the kitchen.

They call themselves the ‘Rebel Canners’ and that’s got me quite intrigued. Those rascals are daring to question The Official Science! They must all have a death wish. Clearly they have they never heard of botulism.

It was no sooner than Hubby and I had a tiff over water bath timing that a YouTube video hit the top of my feeds.

How did they know?

A rebel canner, in the flesh.

She doesn’t look nearly as crazy as I thought she would. She brings up the Amish, who never pressure can.

Never! Not even for meat.

It’s positively scandalous.

Hubby tries to block out the insanity coming from the speakers. I tell him I want to try it. Meat, my dear, imagine, meat water bath canned!

Let’s go for it!

He looks at me with the same look as when I try a new foraged mushroom without proper identification. And I know just what that look means.

I can repeat the sentence for him, I’ve heard it so often.

“You go ahead, sweetie, someone has to live to tell the story.”

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