What Are Friends For?

One thing I never liked about teaching was being the center of attention. I was told I’d get used to it, but in 20+ years, that never happened.

It’s not that I’m a shy wall-flower, far from it. It’s also not that I didn’t appreciate that stage-ease in other teachers when I was a student. In fact, I rather liked it.

Still, I always felt like, if I could design my own classes they would never be lectures, never large groups. Even though some of my large lecture experiences as a student were very positive.

But, that’s because getting lost in the crowd is so easy.

Far more challenging is small group, low structure. It’s a very unique dynamic and my personal preference. It’s not necessarily conducive to many teaching tasks, but it does work very well for other things. Especially if your goals are real community ties over speculative market drivers.

After all, when you consider what motivates most teachers, money rarely tops the list. Small group, low structure is the least beneficial monetarily speaking, for obvious reasons. That’s probably why it’s so rare.

Seven ladies in my tiny kitchen, oh my. BTW, that’s Kombucha we’re imbibing, not beer!

Many hands make light work. I think that means not just a lighter work load. It’s also ‘light work’ as in, bringing the joy of community into our work and into our homes. Incorporating the unique contribution of each individual toward a common goal. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s pretty much the opposite of what incorporation has come to mean in modern parlance—which is more like automatons performing tasks to perfection at the command of a central authority.

“Um, excuse me, but your Shankleesh balls are not uniform!”

We are witnessing in our ‘Institutional Affairs’ that not only are we being conditioned to not discuss religion or politics, but it is becoming a requirement for receiving public funding.

While personally I’m ambivalent to these policies, because on the one hand I appreciate a separation between Church and State. Still, on the other hand I perceive what’s actually happening is an enmeshment of Globalist agendas with local affairs. An infiltration which began long ago that lately has been picking up pace.

Perhaps it is unfair that Christian-affiliated groups are getting squeezed out of public affairs. I can certainly empathize with their predicament and growing resentment. And yet, far more important to me is that I have encountered first-hand and through others’ stories that part of the means to this end is being achieved by categorically excluding crucial topics from public dialogue.

The de-platform and shadow banning and cancel culture that’s being most hyped online often excludes what’s been happening locally in folks’ churches, State-run organizations like the Master Gardeners, and State and church-affiliated out-reach programs and charities, not to mention in the schools.

This in particular makes small gatherings an essential part of a healthy public and community life. Feeling threatened by group-think and ostracized for a differing opinion occurs far less often.

Particularly, when we are gathered around wholesome work, like learning skills together, getting necessary things done, or just sitting on the porch—shooting the shit, so to speak—group identity is replaced by an individual-level camaraderie, where the label is not the first thing on everyone’s radar and money takes the back seat to true care. Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Republican, Anarchist, whatever—these are the social constructs as much as gender identity or which church or which school or which job one has, if any at all.

Differences can be appreciated in a friendly and comforting surrounding rather than creating strict and professional-level hierarchies. Sure, it’s still great to have like-minds around, but they don’t have to be like-minds set in stone or the whole edifice risks collapsing.

When the goal is a better life, actually living it, politics is naturally relegated to the background, not because it’s a forbidden or contentious topic, but because in the manner of human relations it belongs in the background.

Or, even better, six feet underground!

Lunch al fresco with lots of ferments to sample, yum!

And for these reasons, I feel charmed and grateful for the, so far, two ‘Fermenting Workshops’ I’ve hosted here on the wee homestead, with a lotta help from my friends.

Thanks and well done, Ladies! What lovely and wonderfully productive days—I look forward to many more!

All in a day’s work—West African Sweet Potato Ferment, Lemon-Dill Kraut and Shankleesh to take home for you and your family’s enjoyment !

A very special thanks to Nicole Faith, our supreme community organizer and A+ homesteading student, who also provided these photos, along with her exuberant enthusiasm and gracious courage. 😘

Of Pigs & Life

This post is not for most vegetarians or vegans, or anyone easily shaken by reality. Graphic images and musings on the cycle of life will be presented with impunity.

This post is for those who:
~Love bacon;
~May ponder the ethics of eating meat, perhaps even to the point of reading such books as The Omnivore’s Dilemma;
~Think we’re crazy for doing such monumental tasks ourselves, instead of going to the grocer or butcher like normal folk.

Before getting into the boring stuff, let me start with a virtual standing ovation and huge ego-stroke to MY MAN!

That’s one giant hog for one middle-aged mere mortal!

And, just a bit of backstory for nostalgia’s sake. Mama Chop and Papa Chop were our first pigs. They are Red Wattles, a heritage breed that we bought from friends as a breeding pair about 7 years ago. We would’ve kept Mama Chop as a breeder indefinitely, except for one major problem—as sweet as she was, she kept squishing her piglets, no matter what we did to try to prevent it. And, try Hubby did, repeatedly, for several years, to no avail.

Something else peculiar about Mama Chop, which I have not noticed with any of our other pigs: She smelled fantastic. I’m talking about her natural aroma, not her cooked flesh full of seasonings, which is also proving to be delicious. I mean her living self—just being in the vicinity near her—she smelled like maple syrup. That may sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true.

Fortuitously, Mother Earth News has a feature story about this breed in their current issue. “Grandma and Grandpa’s Red Wattle Hogs” by Amanda Sorell.
“Red Wattle hogs are immense, reddish pigs with fleshy appendages that dangle from each side of their necks. Their up-turned noses and upright ears with drooping tips give them a friendly demeanor that matches reports of the breed’s charm.”

“According to The Livestock Conservancy (TLC), this pig’s gentility lends itself well to small-scale, independent producers, and its foraging skills make it suitable for pasture production. Further, this hardy breed is adaptable to a wide range of climates, and it grows rapidly—usually reaching maturity between 600-800 pounds, but individual hogs can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds.”

Red Wattle Hog Stewardship – Mother Earth News

That’s a whole lotta pork!

Thank you for our blessings, Mama Chop!

We don’t know how much she weighed in at slaughter time, but here’s Hubby’s approximation of her results:
150 – 200 pounds of meat for our consumption, that is approximately:
25 # chops
40 # sausage
36 # ham
20# bacon
15 # hocks
20# stew meat
10# in pressure canned
2 gallons bone broth
3 gallons rendered lard
Plus dogs get ~40#s of scraps…..skin, lungs, ears, liver.

Wow, right?!

But, it’s SO MUCH WORK! He is one man in one small kitchen with one unskilled helper. That’s me. I’m the equivalent of his Girl-Friday (aka Galley Slave) — on call, doing what I can in wrapping and cleaning and cooking. The bulk of the work falls on him and he does it like a true stoic.

But what about the bang for the buck? Most folks who raise their own pigs don’t do their own slaughtering, for myriad reasons. It is a highly-skilled process that requires significant strength and time and at least some basic equipment.

It’s now 10 days since she was slaughtered, that makes: 2 days to hang, initial butchering one day, hams and bacon curing for 5 days, a day for making and packaging sausages, a day for smoking, a day for roasting bones, making broth, canning meat and broth.

However, it’s not only costly to go to a professional processor, it’s also a lot more stress on the pigs, as you’ve got to load them into a trailer and drive them quite a distance, sometimes as far as 2 hours away, plus reserve your slot months in advance (whether or not your pigs are ready), all which can affect the final flavor of the meat. We’ve heard many complaints from friends about this process.

Another significant drawback to this expensive convenience is typically, depending on the processor, you will forfeit many valuable parts, including the organ meats, the leaf and regular lard, the bones, including all the trimmings that go to the dogs, not to mention to the vultures, coyotes, and the bugs and soil as the entire animal never leaves our land.

Such is the cycle of life and this makes so much more sense than concentrating carcasses and waste in one place. We, and our neighbors and friends and pets and land are the direct beneficiaries of our labor, and that degree of skill and self-reliance makes me super proud. And when I’m proud, Hubby’s pleased, and so it goes the bitter-sweet circle of life!

Homestead Happenings: To Be, or Not to Be, That Neighbor

You have to get pretty far out in the boonies to get the most tolerant neighbors. I think that’s a good thing. Usually.

Life has gotten even quieter here in the boonies in the last few years. The popular hype would have it that city folk are moving to the countryside in droves. While that may be so, the evidence is still wanting, at least around here.

It would seem the weekenders have less time, or energy, to practice their Sunday “Guns for God” rituals that used to attract them to these parts at regular intervals, in search of target practice.

In this, and other tolerance-mandatory moments, I have not always been as tolerant as the situation has required, I admit.

One time I recall a pick-up truck of ill-mannered miscreants, rifles in hand, showing up at our gate while Hubby was at work and announcing they would be hunting wild hog at the creek which is our property line, and I should let them come in through our gate for that purpose.

I put on my best ‘down home girl’ accent, which most likely fooled precisely no one, and said, “Ain’t no hogs down there darlin’s, creek’s nearly dry, can’t ya see!”

I so wanted to take that opportune moment to educate my derelict audience in the practice of deliberate drought by weather modification, but in reading the room, I decided against it.

“Best y’all get ya’s further down the Trinity valley,” I offered instead.

I know it wasn’t the fake drawl, and I had no gun on me, so I’m figurin’ it was my no-nonsense demeanor that got to ‘em. Not only did they not get through our gate, but they must’ve moved their shindig to other parts, ‘cause they moseyed on, I expect to more cooperative (aka, tolerant) locales.

Ain’t seen ‘em back since.

And then there’s the dogs, always the dogs. Owners are always losing their hunting dogs, even with them fancy tracking devices on ‘em. One time one frightened cutey found his way here and I trapped him, gave him a nice lavender bath ‘cause the poor dear stunk to high heaven, and waited for the owner to come a callin’, which he did, commenting on the dog’s unwelcome new fragrance.

Some assholes actually drop off the dogs they don’t want on our country roads. Can you believe that?!

And as if that’s not bad enough, sometimes your own neighbors are the problem.

When you lose half your flock of chickens to a sneaky dog your neighbor adores, and you caught him red-handed on candid camera, but the neighbor still insists it’s ‘your problem’, tension tends to develop.

Especially if you are me.

I’m like an angry, barking squirrel when I lose my patience, I get that. I’d try to correct that clear character flaw if it weren’t something I was proud of and have worked at developing so consistently.

But still, I can’t stand by and witness hypocrisy, even, or maybe especially, if it’s my own.

And now, it comes around, as our neighbors, few and quiet as they mostly are, have our livestock guard dogs, who think the entire county is their personal protection zone, annoying them with border barking patrols, all night long.

Let sleeping dogs lie? Hardly! The whole county gets a taste of their actions after midnight!

I want to send them an exasperated message—I’m so sorry—they are not respecting their boundaries! We don’t want to be ‘that’ neighbor, really!

But in our defense, not even the electric fence stops them! We are at our wit’s end trying to solve this issue!

Thank you for your patience!

Thankfully for us, our neighbors are so tolerant they don’t even have the decency to complain.

And as if that wasn’t enough. All my best laid plans of goats and cheeses are dwindling.

Summer, herd queen, always taking the high ground, with Phoebe and Chestnut cowering nearby. A definite love-hate relationship.

The goats have declared mutiny. We already had a misfit crew: Summer the Eldest, herd queen, a belligerent, bossy bitch who terrorizes the rest of the herd with her monster horns, yet who they follow everywhere; Chestnut the Crazy, who is super-skittish and a first-freshener and more moody than a teenage girl; and Phoebe the Squatter, another first-freshener, who is the most stubborn goat on earth, I’m certain.

These horns were meant for knockin’, and that’s just what they’ll do . . .
“But, but, but . . . can’t you see how cute and innocent we are?”

I’ve been watching YouTubes and reading up for months now and I can say that not one goat I’ve seen can match Phoebe in out-right belligerence and deceptive tactics. She’ll jump right up on that stand, give you a singular taste of cooperation, only to . . .BAM . . .lay right down on the job as soon as I get my bucket in position.

And go figure, that is not among the prize characteristics showcased at the 4-H or any other of the breeding clubs.

My goat guru offered the most obvious of advice, “You must be more stubborn than the goat!”

Honestly, I thought my stubbornness to be among my most obvious and enviable characteristics, inherited from my mother. I then deliberately married a very stubborn man, who also inherited his stubbornness from his mother. We’re like five generations of stubborn in one.

And yet, we are like the impetuous novices in comparison to truly goat-level stubborness. I must humbly admit, I’ve been defeated. My cheese-making days are on the wane, maybe for many more months, just when I was really getting into the swing of things.

Alas, the simple life is really not that simple.

Good bye fair cheeses, may we meet again!

Homestead Happenings

Some happy snaps and random updates this post. There’s the alien eggs that come to find out, are not alien eggs after all. Some cute critter pics. Some ill-placed political memes. Some exciting for me, but boring for you, cheese news.

Basically an unorganized hodgepodge of a post that you should probably just skip unless you’re bored.

Totally unrelated to this post, I just like it and haven’t found a better place for it.

The New Normal weather whiplash continues. It seems even the leaves aren’t quite sure what to make of it.

Two maple trees we planted about 5 years ago. Of 25 total there are 7 still alive.
We’ve had similar results with the pecans and all the orchard trees.

We are getting some yummy mushrooms—the upside of so many dead trees. Mushroom pizza tonight! I’ve also been wanting to try making pickled mushrooms and it looks like there’ll be plenty for that, too.

And the mysterious eggs aren’t alien after all, big surprise. Katherine of EdenUnlocked blog was right, stinkhorns.

And Kath in the UK then followed-up with her friend who is a mushroom expert. He is probably right on the type, phallus hadriani, but we’re not getting full development on them in order to tell for sure.

(Thanks y’all, I so appreciate your help! Isn’t the internet so awesome for such connections?!)

We’re still checking our phallus circle daily and they keep trying! One egg will ‘hatch’ but then it falls over.

Could it be a kind of ‘phallus shrinkage’ due to weather whiplash?? 😂

The goats are gorging on acorns and scarfing down the fresh greens Hubby planted for them in a former garden space. The kids are happy because I put them all back together again. They went right back to nursing even though they are nearly as big as their mamas already. And, I’m still getting a half-gallon of milk a day, so it’s a win-win.

The goat cheeses are coming out great.

Aged chèvre wrapped in maple leaves and one in plastic cheese wrap for taste comparison

The pigs are getting fat and happy again foraging for plenty of acorns.

And ending with another meaningful but ill-placed commentary just because I like it and don’t have another place to put it.

Food Gratitude

My first deep dive down the conspiracy theory trail was not Geoengineering/Weather Modification, though that’s where I find myself most often these days. Rather, it was food, and health.

I was already well down that particular trail for years before attending a very large conference in Washington, DC where one of the hot topics was GMOs.

One of the speakers was an African woman who had some official title in some African country. All the details about her escape me now, except for one thing she said. She was speaking to us ‘anti-GMO’ types in the audience, and there were a lot of us. She was referring to our privilege to be able to take such a stance as Americans when there were people starving all around the globe.

Of course, that wasn’t the first time I’d heard such a claim. But something about her—a very large, dark-skinned woman donned in her traditional dress with quite a commanding presence—made me waffle, for just a moment. In that moment I looked around the room and realized her statement was having a similar effect on others. As she went on in that line of lecturing, they began to nod and look a bit sheepish after having just feverishly applauded the opposing stance.

It was, after all, a mostly Progressive crowd of over-40s who were clearly well-to-do, judging by the cost of the conference and the topics discussed. She was shaming us, and it was working.

Later on, when I was considering her words while not among the approving crowd, I thought, I wonder how many anti-GMO activists she just converted. She was effective, no doubt. But she wasn’t saying anything new, it was the same diplomatic version of—if you don’t feed Africa with GMO crops we will starve, so save your do-goody, anti-science rhetoric for those who can afford to hear it.

What I hear her saying is actually this: We want a quick fix, a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Then when that solution fails, come in with another one. And then another. If you keep selling those solutions, we’ll keep buying them.

On the Corruption of GM Science,” John stated, “There is no balance in the GM research field or in the peer-review process or in the publication process. For this we have to thank corporate ownership of science, or at least this brand of it . . . Scientific integrity is one loser, and the public interest is another.” Dr. Brian John to GM Science Review, 2003

2003! It’s almost 20 years and it’s only gotten worse.
(I’ve been writing about it since 2009 if you’d like to see some of those old posts with some very telling comments still attached: Starting From Scratch – Kensho Homestead)

Why do we continue to allow our own Food Gratitude to poison the world with Food Idiocracy?

I’m very grateful my better half contributes whole-heartedly in our efforts to maintain food wisdom on the wee homestead and in cyber-discussions on the topic. Here’s a bit of recent data he’s compiled.

Have you heard the latest?
Well, line up folks, the Food Pyramid is back, new and improved!

Welcome to the ‘Food Compass’!*

What will you find in this 200+ page document crafted by top university scientists?

https://static-content.springer.com/esm/art%3A10.1038%2Fs43016-021-00381-y/MediaObjects/43016_2021_381_MOESM1_ESM.pdf

Egg substitutes scored high than real eggs!
Over seventy processed breakfast cereals scored higher than a boiled egg. Even one called “Malt-O-Meal Marshmallow Mateys”, cause if its got marshmallows its gotta be good for you. 🤮

Some interesting rankings (the higher the score the ‘better’):
Almond milk, unsweetened, chocolate 91
Soy milk, light 75
Chocolate milk, made from no sugar added dry mix with non‐dairy milk (Nesquik) 73
Hot chocolate / Cocoa, made with no sugar added dry mix and non‐dairy milk 70
Whole milk 46

Frosted Mini-wheats is ranked as healthier than ground beef,
Lucky Charms as healthier than chicken…

TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)** gets a perfect score of 100
Higher than any red meat, poultry, or seafood except Halibut or Tuna
The best poultry: Braised Chicken Liver 71
Boiled goat head and Cooked beaver 43
The best red meat: Raw Ground Beef 38
Braised Beef steak 23

They also list IMITATION cheese as healthier than 40+ of the “real” cheeses listed. (For example cheddar, Monteray, colby, gouda, feta, etc…..).

*”Food Compass is a nutrient profiling system which ranks foods based on their healthfulness using characteristics that impact health in positive or negative ways. It was developed by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.”

The Healthiest Foods You Can Eat, Ranked by Scientists

** “For TVP, first you extract oil from the soybeans using hexane (which leaves about 20 ppm hexane behind in TVP), followed by a sequence of other similarly appetizing processes to degum, bleach, deodorize, and neutralize the taste of the oil. The solids left over are defatted soy flour. That is cooked and extruded through a nozzle into various shapes and sizes, exiting the nozzle while still hot and expanding as it does so. Sometimes some higher-protein concentrate or isolate is also used. The defatted thermoplastic proteins are heated to 300–390 °F, which denatures them into a fibrous, insoluble, porous network that can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids. As the pressurized molten protein mixture exits the extruder, the sudden drop in pressure causes rapid expansion into a puffy solid that is then dried (it’s basically “shot from guns” like Cocoa Puffs). As much as 50% protein when dry, it is approximately 16%, similar to meat, when rehydrated, and various artificial colors and synthetic flavors can be added during the process to make it imitate different kinds of meat.”

For further reading:

Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation by F. William Engdahl 2007

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public by Steven M. Druker 2015

Foodopoly: The Battle Over The Future Of Food And Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter 2012

Two excellent newer articles at Corey’s Digs:

Homestead Happenings

Something of an ‘adult-themed’ post for y’all today from the wee homestead: Weather prediction by smoke signal, garlic galore, alien eggs update, and a flying boar. Wow!

Repeat after me: I don’t see a persistent spreading chemtrail. All is cool and normal.
Homo-genitus cirrus clouds. All is cool and normal.

I am full of pride today as I can now successfully predict the 3-5 day forecast based on smoke signals in the sky! I’m not sure who is wanting me to learn this crucial life lesson, but I suspect it is the ghost of an old woman I once knew in Bohemia who could predict the weather based on her rheumatism.

She came from a long line of dousers and knew the frisson of a rain storm from the sky or streams underground with uncanny accuracy based entirely on degree of hip pain.

Of course, she never knew the regular 30-50 degree sudden temperature swings that in these parts come with the manufactured weather. That’s called scientific progress! Something tells me she would not have approved. But then again, being a wise crone, she’d have known that no one of critical influence would give a crap what she knows or how she knows it.

Those top 3 photos are from our wee homestead airspace, the bottom two from some random techie dude in the UK trying to normalize this disgusting spectacle.

The tomato plants themselves look pretty pathetic, no thanks to the temperature swings and the goats who like to nibble on them. But still, it’s a rarity, and it’s kinda fun. A fresh tomato salad and a volunteer watermelon in mid-November, because there’s got to be a silver lining somewhere, right?!

We were lucky enough to be gifted a box of garlic from a generous homesteading friend and Hubby has prepared their beautiful beds, with lots of poop, of course. This friend had also just taken the long road-trip to our best raw milk source in the region, so I could not resist the now quite steep price of $10/gallon in order to make one large cheese of our favorite variety. Think that’s expensive, the farmer said his competitors are now at $12!

The mommas and kids are doing great, though it’s a bit of a pain keeping them separated, especially when it’s cold. I was hoping they might be weaned already, being it’s been over a month. So, we tested it, and no such luck. Those greedy kids got right back on the teets.

But, I’m having too much fun cheesemaking to share, sorry kids!

Both just pressed: Pepper Jack on right, which will be aged for two months; and a cheese made from the leftover whey of the Pepper Jack on left, to be soaked in cider for four days for added flavor and eaten fresh.
We marked the emerging monsters for quick recon

A third has joined the alien eggs (see previous ‘WTF Photo’ post) or more likely, the stinky phalus circle. It’s become my new morning normal, what are the eggs up to today? One tried to emerge recently, only to fall flat.

I’m hoping they become something like this photo from a web search:

Stink horn mushroom

Cool, right? Perhaps begging the question: Which came first, the dildo or the mushroom? 🤣

Ahem . . . too much??

So, in other mushroom news . . .

On left, not edible, but a lovely pale yellow and so cute. On right, bland beige, odd smell, edible,delicious, but not so cute. With them I made a mushroom soup and added them to a cheese quesadilla—so tasty.

And wouldn’t you know, pigs really do fly! We woke to find our boar missing. It was quite the melodrama and Hubby was in quite the anguish about it. We’ve had him for many years now and saw no sign what could have become of him. Initially.

Hubby’s schedule was to breed the sows next month, as per usual. Papa Chop decided he couldn’t wait, apparently. We’ve got 4-foot fencing keeping everyone separated, which has worked just fine, until now. After some searching and hollering he eventually showed up at the fence line again, only to jump a second one to get at another sow. Just, Wow!

A+ for determination, old feller.

Pigs in heat—quite the force of nature!

Homestead Happenings

Never a dull moment on the wee homestead. Since our last update we’ve got limping dogs, goat rodeo, weather whiplash, a huge harvest of sweet potatoes, new cheeses and old ferments.

If it’s the cooler temps or longer nights or more critters creeping around, we can’t say, but our dogs have been doing a lot of midnight galavanting. First they got into skunks, and that was bad enough. Now we go out first thing in the morning to find them wet and limping and exhausted. We’ve started taking them for walks during the day trying to tire them out and make sure they get enough gentle exercise, because we’re worried they’re going to get themselves into some real trouble. It’s working out very well for our barn cat, Skittles, who now roams wherever she wants without fear of attack.

Milking just three goats twice a day is proving to be quite the chore considering with the two first-fresheners it’s a constant battle of wills. It seems every day they learn a new trick trying to get free treats. First it was bucking and kicking, then squatting making milking impossible, now one has graduated to full refusal, getting up on the milk stand only to lay down flat. It takes both of us, Hubby to hold legs and supply food, me to grasp the bucket with one hand and milk with one hand, each with our reflexes on full alert to shift, draw, grab in the split second it takes a hoof to swipe, spill, crush. It’s really not fun. At all. I have to remind us both that it takes patience and to stay focused on the rewards.

Cheese!

In garden news we got a very early frost and then the temps shot right back up to the high 80s. It’s cooled down a bit since then again and we got a whole 1/2 inch of rain, woohoo! It hardly made a difference, but maybe my fall seeds have a better chance now of germinating.

We harvested loads of sweet potatoes and still have more to go. The vines can’t handle even a light frost, like the basil, so we got all we could manage beforehand though the tomatoes and peppers survived, so that was a pleasant surprise.

I continue to experiment with fermenting all kinds of veggies and they are coming out so delicious. I moved them from the aging fridge to make room for the cheeses, but they kept great in there all summer. We’ve got all kinds of goodies—cucumbers, basil, peppers, okra, carrots, cabbage—and soon I’ll be tying sweet potatoes.

A whole world of deliciousness I’ve only really embarked on seriously starting this year, and thanks to this excellent book.

P.S. Sorry for all the sideways photos and if you get a crink in your neck trying to view them you can thank WordPress for that. I spent an hour trying to correct them, and it’s not working. My WordPress experience is getting worse and worse, which is why the days of this blog will be over soon as it’s just become too annoying to continue it. It’s gone steadily downhill since they forced the Block Editor on everyone. They continually make changes that only make it harder and more time-consuming to post. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by!

Homestead Happenings

I’ve got some complaining to do today, but there are some rays of sunshine, too, fear not!

Let’s get the crap out of the way first, don’t you think?

In the mornin’, in the evenin’, ain’t we got fun?!

“Climate change”— aka Geoengineering/Weather Modification — continues to haunt us. That is, in droughting us out, mercilessly. I have little hope for the fall garden. I’ve had very poor germination in some crops, none at all in others. That could be the high soil temperature, the still scorching sun and heat even now into October, or perhaps it’s all that crap in the atmosphere.

The pastures are so parched, which means, as I mentioned last time, more sheep than we’d wanted to will go to freezer camp.

The upside is, we are eating very well these days. We’d slowed down on meat consumption over the summer because the freezers were low. The hens had really slowed down laying too in the heat. Now we’ve got meat and egg surplus and we’ve been indulging accordingly.

That also means tallow, which is like white gold to me!

Hubby also pressure canned us some lamb and broth. Yum!

They want a pretty penny for this stuff, which makes sense considering all the costs and effort involved. A basic tallow balm will set you back $15/ounce! I’ve already made one hand balm with rather erotic-scented essential oils that’s got the thumb’s up from my sole customer. 🤗

On to the garden . . .

The purple Czech hot pepper is still my season favorite. It’s still doing beautifully (under shade cloth) and is a lovely little plant I’ll try to over-winter indoors. Hubby is making hot sauce in the fermentation crock that I’m sure will be top-notch.

Pictured: the purple Czechs in the center back, Thai basil to its left, sweet basil upfront—so it is protected from full sun in every direction except from the east.
Even under shade cloth and screening the fall crops are not germinating. Luckily I was able to start a few indoors under grow lights.
Tomatoes also started indoors mid-summer under grow lights, now looking pretty good transplanted outside last month. Fingers crossed it doesn’t frost too early and we’ll get the rare fall harvest of plump red tomatoes. Dare to dream!

We’ve finally fully weened the kids and it’s been a very loud few days! I’ve got enough milk again to make some good cheeses, which is just about my favorite thing to do in the world. Or, I just really missed it all summer and I’m really sick of the garden.

The kids will be fine without their mamas, they just don’t know it yet. 😆

I’ve got to get practicing my cheeses again, because the interest in homesteading has really been growing around here. A nearby group has formed and asked us to share some knowledge, which we are pleased to do. Hubby will be lending a hand in the butchery department and I will be offering my fermentation wisdom— in kombucha, soft cheeses and sourdough—for now, hopefully moving on to more advanced skills if interests persist. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done any teaching and I’m already nervous! But, I’m so pleased folks are really starting to see the value in more self-reliant living.

Whether it’s out of necessity or innate interest, I’m thrilled more folks are choosing a more natural lifestyle.

And . . .I think the more the big shit stinks, the more we should be celebrating the small stuff.

And . . .Just in time for Halloween . . .a visit from a black widow!

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! 😆

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