Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Farm Blog Has Moved

Crafty Girl in the Country has merged with BohoKnitterChic Spins to become BohoKnitterChic Spins in the Country

In 2007 I started a fiber arts blog where I wanted to focus on my primary hobbies, knitting and spinning yarn. It had remained my obsession for over 5 years now, but the posts to my blog are fewer and further between.  

I also created this farm blog when we bought our first property last year and have be posting about our farm, animals, canning, crafting, and a little bit of cooking whenever I get the chance. 

I couldn't find a good reason NOT to merge the blogs into one, because really, my life isn't segregated, so why should my blogs be separate? I think anyone who appreciates home arts can appreciate fiber arts, and vice versa, and ultimately the goal is to bring sheep to the farm for my fiber arts, at which point my worlds really will converge.

Since my fiber arts blog has been around longer, I decided to move the posts from here over there, so please check out the link at the top of this post and see this blogs new home, and the other fun things I like to do.

Get caught up, familiarize yourself with some of the fun new links on the right sidebar, and get geared up for what's ahead. Tomorrow is a brand new day, and the start of some fun new posts. I'm really excited for what's to come, are you? I hope to see you there...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Springtime Mood Swings

Springtime really can't seem to make up it's mind. In the past two weeks we've had sunny 60 degree weather, rainy 50 degree weather, snowy 30 degree weather, and yesterday we had a particularly unfriendly windy raining ice storm with intermittent sun. I'm really happy that we've taken several opportunities to get ahead on early summer farm work when the sun is shining because there really is no telling how long the nice weather will last.

Yesterday, despite the wind, we rushed out to try and finish the chicken coop. Luckily most of the work was inside the coop and we were able to finish while there was a lull in the stormy weather. All that's left is a coat or two of varnish to seal the floor and we we can move the chicks into their new home. I'm so glad, they've really outgrown the bathroom and they have created quite a mess. I'll get some pictures of the finished coop when the weather is a bit nicer. Although, in order for it to be truly finished, I'll have to wait for a sunny day to paint it.

Panorama from the top of the property in late March (you should be able to click on the image to make it bigger)
Top of the Property Panorama

Last Weeks Freak Snowstorm

As long as the sun is shining, the puppies have to play outside, whether they like it or not.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chicken TV

The chicks are getting older, almost 4 weeks now (but 3 weeks in the video/pictures below), and as they get older they get more and more entertaining to watch. I find myself getting my morning coffee and going downstairs to see what's new in the chicken world. I can sit there and watch them for what seems like hours.

Most of the time I'm looking at their features, how their feathers are coming in, and trying to guess if they'll be boys or girls. I also try to guess what colors they will be when they're fully feathered and what breeds they might be since we got mixed breed chicks. My opinions of each chick seem to change from day to day, but as they get bigger I think the answers are becoming more clear.

The most interesting thing to watch is their behavior. Some chicks are proficient scratchers and are the main reason their water is always full of wood shavings. Other chicks seem to be "whiners", walking around and chirping their very distinguishable high pitched chirps. A few, I'm assuming they will be boys, are very macho and walk around stealing food from other chicks. I'm always impressed with the chicks who seem to be learning to steer when they fly and can perch up on the edge of the brooder to get a better view of their surroundings (although the minute they see my they fly back to safety.

I feed them treats and try to handle them every day because they are still pretty spooked when I move quickly or stand up. Some are getting better and rush to see me, while others hide in the back and wait to get their treats after I leave. I'm hoping by the time we move them outside in a few weeks will will all be friends. I don't like the idea of running around trying to catch chickens when it's time to go in the coop for the night.

Here's a video of the chicks at snack time. I talk a little bit about them, where they are in their development, and their current temporary chick home:

While I wasn't able to catch any chicks for their movie debut, I was able to snap a few pictures.

This is Sadie, she is one of my favorites (I hope she's a she!). She seems very delicate and shy compared to the others. She's one that has a distinguishable chirp and always hangs back and waits for her treats. I am in love with her grey coloring.

Sadie at 3 days old
Sadie 1 week

Sadie at 3 weeks and 3 days old
Sadie 3 weeks

This is Hank. I'm trying very hard to not get attached to the chicks that I think might be boys, in case they end up going to new homes or in the stew pot, but with Hank I just can't help it. It's very sweet, the first to come to me for treats, and will perch on my hand so he gets the best access to whatever treats I'm hand feeding the chicks. I'll talk more about why I think he's a boy in another post, but it has to do with feather color, his legs, and his comb (the mohawk between his eyes).

Hank at 3 weeks and 3 days old
Hank 3 weeks

This is Poe. She looked very much like a Raven when she was a chick, but is feathering out in the neatest leopard pattern. I'm still on the fence as to whether she's a she or he, but for now I'm going to be optimistic and call her a girl.

Poe at 3 weeks and 3 days old
Poe 3 weeks

All of the other chicks were to anxious and the pictures turned out blurry, but I'm hoping to do a new photo shoot on Tuesday, when they are 4 weeks old.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Planning for a Garden

One of the best parts about having a farm is almost here! Growing Season! Being the Virgo that I am (as my bosses would say) means that I'm almost as excited about the PLANNING of the garden as I am about the actual production of our own food.

We've narrowed down the sites where we want to plant, have begun prepping the areas (aka- weed whack the heck out of it), and starting choosing what we want to grow. My mother in law gave me very sound advice- focus on a couple of things and learn to grow them well before expanding and trying new things. She obviously knows how enthusiastic I can get about things, and while her attempts to reign me in were valiant, she failed. Gwen, I give you permission to say "I told you so" later this autumn.

Plethora is a kind word to use when describing the number of seed packets I have acquired so far this spring. To be exact, I now have 44 bags of seeds (only 4 of which were given to me by someone local), totaling $125. I consider it an investment in my future. I just couldn't help myself. I started by purchasing seeds from some small companies close to our region in hopes that they would do well here. I couldn't find a local seed producer (I have found one since then, but even I have my seed purchasing limits) so I chose a few online. I got the majority of the seeds from Kenyon Organics in Utah, a few from Box Garden Organics in Idaho, and some lavender from Paula Jeans Garden down in Missoula, MT. After that I rounded out our collection with some seeds from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds from Washington that I picked up at the local hardware store. I tried to focus on organic and heirloom breeds, but it got to the point where every time we went to a feed store or hardware store I got a case of the "Ooooohhhh, that looks good!" and I just couldn't resist.

The Seed Collection

In the end (I hope it's the end) we have 3 different kinds of sunflowers, regional and bee attracting wildflowers, some herbs, paste and eating tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, carrots, winter squash, cucumbers, beans, and a few other varieties. Some of them, like the hot peppers, are dependent on our ability to set up the greenhouse. At the moment I'm not sure that's going to happen this year because we have so many other projects going on, but we're going to try. We may try to start some of the seeds early in the shop with a grow light we got from a friend, but really I'll just be happy if we can get the ground tilled and ready by the last frost in early June.

To prepare myself between now and then for this adventure I have torn apart every gardening magazine I own (mostly Mother Earth News) and organized the articles into categories for fruits, vegetables, other food (like grains), soil health, pest control, seasonal gardening tips, and general gardening tips, to make them easier to navigate. This way I can also add in my own notes about each thing from the books I plan to read about gardening. First up will be Organic Gardening in Cold Climates and The Montana Gardener's Companion. I also plan to start reading Zone 4, a magazine just for Rocky Mountain gardeners.

The Garden Site, Pre-Weed Whack

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chicks Right At Home

I finally got the real proof of our building adventures on video, and off the video camera, quite a feat if I do say so myself. Here's a little snippet from the beginning of the chicken coop building on March 10th. Since then we've gotten the roof attached but we still need to finish the inside, attach the metal roof, and paint it. I wish the weather wasn't so cruddy this weekend, but I'm sure we'll get it finished soon.

Today I upgraded the chicks living quarters to give them a little more space and so I could raise their heat lamp more to keep them from being to hot. We have an extra dog kennel that I'm hoping will help contain the chicks more as they start to fly. I may have to get a piece of chicken wire to cover the other part of the brooder. They're growing so fast!

I was also able to get some video of the chicks today eating some fresh fruits and veggies and one of the chicks took her first dust bath. How cute!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

Happy Spring!

I hope for some of you today brought sunshine and flowers, because for us here on Flathead Lake, MT it marked the beginning of windy rainstorm season. Mother Nature definitely didn't disappoint. The morning was grey and uneventful but sometime mid-afternoon the temperature got up to 55 degrees and a huge grey cloud was headed straight for us. I was cooking dinner when it reached us with winds and heavy rain. It must have been Bomber's first rainstorm because he curled up at my feet, shaking, as I chopped potatoes for spicy fish and potato soup. In less than half an hour the storm had passed and everything was back to normal.

Since I knew I wasn't spending today outside, I decided to start canning season off early! Asparagus was super cheap at the store, that never happens, so I bought at least 5 pounds of it. I froze most and decided to pickle the rest. I used the Pickled Asparagus recipe in Canning For A New Generation as a loose reference for liquid amounts because I didn't have an interest in making pickling spice.

I started out with 1 pound, 6oz of asparagus with the ends cut off, but not quite short enough yet to go in our jars. I mixed a brine using the liquid measurements that the book suggested for 1 pound of asparagus (forgetting I had 1.5 times that much) and ended up only having enough for half of my jars. Whoops! I had to scramble to whip up another batch of brine for the remaining jars. If I had mixed it all as one batch here is what I would have had:

1 cup rice vinegar
4 cups white vinegar (because I didn't have enough of the rice vinegar)
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/3 tbsp salt
2 tsp dill seed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove per jar

2 jars have a half rice vinegar/half white vinegar brine and 2 jars have an all white vinegar brine. There was 1 jar that overlapped the two different brines.

Boil the brine, pack the jars, fill the jars with enough brine to cover the spears. Process as you would any other pickled veggie (I did these in a hot water bath for 10 minutes).

Throughout this whole process I couldn't help but think of an asparagus roll hors d'oeuvres recipe that I used to help my grandmother make when I was a child for her bridge club. They had a strong curry flavor so the entire time I was canning I kept getting the urge to put curry in the jars. I decided to do it in the one jar of overlapping brine, I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out.

Manna's Asparagus Rolls

1 can green asparagus spears, well drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chutney
1 loaf this sliced white sandwich bread with crusts removed (Wonder Bread!)

Use a rolling pin to roll each slice of bread lightly. Spread with dressing and seasoning. Place asparagus spear at one end of bread slice and roll up (leave edge down so it will stay rolled). Cut into halves or thirds. Cover with a damp towel or place in a tight plastic container until serving time. Makes approximately 3-41/2 dozen depending on how you cut them.

I think I need to find an excuse to make this recipe again...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Which came first?

The chicken or the egg?

I'm pretty sure that for most "Chicken Farmers", the coop came first. At least it probably should. We made our best effort and had the greatest intentions, but were only moderately successful in erecting our "Chicken Mansion" before the arrival of our chicks. Luckily, the chicks will be living in our spare bathroom until they are fully feathered, so we have a few more weeks to finish the coop.

I started by researching coop designs in books and online to find the one that I liked the best. There is a very basic design in the book How to Build Animal Housing. I think it was quite large, 10'x12', which is larger than we would need. I really, really loved the design of this coop posted on the community website Backyard Chickens. It has a separate area closed off for food storage, vents that lift up for easy cleaning, and lots of windows. I took these two designs and sketched what I wanted for our coop.

I wanted a door so I could walk in, a window for light, vents at the top for ventilation, and I wanted it to be insulated since we live in Montana and I want to promote egg laying in the cold winter months. The final design is an 8'x8' coop that is 6' high in front and 4' high in back. We found a 5' used door and used window that opens. We are going to seal the floor so that it doesn't rot and instead of having a separate closed off area for feed I'm going to get some lidded garbage cans to leave in the coop with feed and first aid supplies.

The coop is going to be placed in the front of our property where we can see it from the house and they will be close to the garden so they can work their magic on our soil. It's between two trees to provide wind protection in the winter and sun protection in the summer. The last piece we need is the fencing to protect them from our dogs.

The progress we made last weekend:

Here are the chicks in their temporary home under their heat lamp!
More on them tomorrow...