A Lot Complete–Much More to Go.

10Apr14_300_1775One of our many surprises with this property can be seen on the left.  This one of our many tulips that sprang to life this spring in one of our fields.  I am not sure how many tulips we actually have, but if you count the very small ones, I imagine the number is close to 40 or 50.  So far, we have orange, red, and white.  We also found a couple patches of beautiful blue Hyacinths.  If you split all of the Hyacinths they could number close to 75 or more.  We are in the process of10Apr14_DSC_1791 transferring the tulips and Hyacinths from their present locations to new patches that will be out of the way of the rototiller and mower.   I did not post pictures of the Hyacinths as it was very windy when I was taking pictures and they really did not turn out well.  Soon though.

We also knew that there  were several old and un-cared for grape vines on the property.  They were left to fend for themselves, and were basically a mess.  Two of them are too large to dig up and move, so I will build a trellis for them.  I dug up 4 and transplanted them to a new grape/berry garden that I am developing.  I have an additional 8 Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 or 6 table grape plants coming.  Additionally, two more apple and 2 Asian pear trees, and 6 berry plants are one the way.  This will give us 16-plus fruit trees, 19 or so grape vines, one almond tree, and at least 15 various berry vines. 

As I posted earlier, the fruit trees in the orchards are starting to bloom, and so are some of our trees.  On the 10Apr14_300_1764left is one of out very old plum trees blossom.  The trees has to be at least 35 years old, if not older, and not really doing that good.  To try to help it become healthier, we pruned it and cleared the surrounding area.  I will feed it later in the season.  I dug up one of this trees “children”, which sprouted from an injured root area and transplanted it to the (proposed) herb garden.  I am not sure if it is going to live, but I wanted to try as it was either transplant it or cut it down.

We also have an old almond tree that is simply beautiful in bloom.  If you have 10Apr14_300_1768never seen an almond blossom, the image on the right if for you!  We had almonds last year, but were really not sure what they were at first.  Since we now know what type of tree it is, and how beautiful it is, we will do what we can to help it continue to grow, but like most of the trees and plants on the property, it was not really well looked after.

While this is a desert, it does rain quite a bit in the spring.  What does rain bring?  Weeds.  Lots of weeds.  The image on the left is of the neighbors field of weeds – 10Apr14_300_1773blue mustard.  We have blue mustard, yellow mustard, cheat grass, annual rye grass, and a few others that were identified by the Marsing Cooperative Extension Service – very helpful folks.  For out fields, I attached the sickle bar mower to my BCS 852, and three very tiring hours later, we had a nice, neat field. 

For the past month, we have been putting in 8 – 10 hour days in the field, building coops, fences, and garden beds, as well and maintaining and modifying the lawn and house garden area.  Finally, the major work is done and we can start to cut down a bit.  Today, it was only a 5 hour day, putting the final touches on the coop, fence, and transplanting a few vines. The below pictures are of the finished fence, and coop – complete with chickens!  There were 13 chickens in the coop since last night.  I opened the door this afternoon, and 7 figured out how to fly down to the grass – I am going to check in a few minutes to see how many figured out how to make it back inside, as it is getting dark.

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It is now time to take a bit of a rest (until Saturday when I start completing the irrigation plan for and various gardens and start on the herb garden, which is a 30 foot diameter circle garden, and maybe find some time in the next 5 days to do my taxes – maybe!

Finished the Coop!

24March2014_DSC1734Spring is here, and flowers are everywhere. Our daffodils are blooming, and the tulips are all up and should bloom shortly.  Better yet, the orchard trees are also starting to bloom.

Down the street a bit is an apricot orchard that is in bloom.  From the house the orchard, and several other apricot orchards that are in bloom, looks like a white carpet, so we decided to stop by and take a couple of pictures.  It seems that apricot trees are the first to bloom, with the others, including peach, pear, apple, cherry, and plum, following shortly after.  I am interested to see the pink apple blossoms as well as out two old and large crab apples. 

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So, the chicken coop is finally complete!  We finished painting it today, and I put the roofing on the nest boxes.  While I say it is complete, I actually have a few minor items left to do in the interior of the coop.  I want to 24March2014_DSC1725temporarily block the nest boxes so the chicks do not think it a good place to sleep and then lay eggs elsewhere, and there are a few small weatherproofing, bug proofing, and trim items to take care of.  I will be putting the chicks outside in two and a half weeks, so I have time to spare in completing the remaining tasks.

While I really do not enjoy building things, building the coop was often enjoyable due to the beautiful weather last week, it was in the upper 50’s and sunny, and the wonderful scenery that surrounds the property.  Today while painting, it was in the low 60’s and again, beautiful.  Also, I am extremely satisfied with the coop itself.  It should provide the chickens a good home where they can lay a lot of eggs for us and maybe a bit of soup or a nice BBQ dinner…..

As you may be able to see, the chicks are growing fast.  I am thinking of moving them to the studio in the shed, as they are very dusty in the garage.  As they loose their baby feathers, the feathers, in the form of dust and fuzz, to everywhere, and the garage is a mess. 

Next on the agenda is a fence for the chickens and the lambs that I will be getting in the next few weeks.  I have decided to raise sheep for meat, as they will have enough food in the pasture I am developing to not need much, if any, additional feed.  Also, in the next few days I will be planting 6 apple,  1 nectarine, 1 peach, 2 sweet and 1 sour cherry, 1 plum tree, a boysenberry and raspberry bush, transplanting three or four old grape vines, planting 10 new grape vines, rototilling all three garden areas, finding and developing an area to grow hops, helping Misty develop an herb garden, putting in an irrigation system for the trees, bushes, vines, garden areas, and who knows what else.  This does not include performing spring maintenance on over 15,000 sq. ft. of a very resource wasteful, but nice, lawn.  All hard work, but all extremely enjoyable to do.

Almost Spring Update.

DSC_0011Spring (almost) seems to be here, with daffodils blooming, tulips getting ready to bloom, trees starting to leaf out, and green appearing everywhere.  With Spring comes all of the chores and projects that need to be done, meaning it is becoming very busy around the home.

First, the chickens.  We now have 13 chicks growing in the garage.  They hatched the last day of February to about mid-first week in March.  They are growing quite well, and will be put outside at the end of this month. The chick brooder is a very large plastic water trough for cattle that came with the property.  I installed a heat lamp as well as a Brinsea brooder which the chicks like to hide under.  I topped the brooder with wire to keep the cats out, and put a pallet on top of the wire.  The pallet provides a nice viewing platform for the cats.Spring2014_DSCF2336

I am nearing completion of work on the chicken coop.  I initially started the coop in the Fall, but I was unsure of what type of coop I wanted.  I knew that I needed an 8’ X 4’ (32 sq. ft.) coop, but could not decide between a tall or short coop, or if I wanted it on or off the ground.  I still did not know what I wanted last week, so I decided to simply start building and see what developed. 

As you can see from the below images, I choose (finally) to build a short coop that was off the ground.  The coop walls are 4 feet tall and the coop sits 2 feet off the ground.  I decided to build an elevated coop as it will be easier to clean and easier to collect eggs.  The coop is based on a set of plans that I modified a bit to better suit my needs and materials that I had on hand.  The coop if based on “The Daisy” coop by cleancoops.com.  I am vary satisfied with the quality of the plans, though I did find some of the instructions a bit unclear in a couple of sections, but nothing at all major.  Basically, a 4.85 out of 5, and a set of plans that I would very highly recommend to anyone wanting a spacious, strong, and if you know how to do woodwork, very attractive coop.

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As you can see, I build the walls and then attached them to the coop floor.  This was easier for me than building directly on the floor, as the shed floor provided a level base to cut and nail as well as a warmer, less windy spot to build.  All of the parts fit together well, and as the last image shows, the coop is almost done.  Hopefully, it will be done prior to the weekend and we can paint and decorate.  We are having a wind storm with up to 50 MPH gusts, and so far the coop has not tipped over or fallen apart, so I guess I did a pretty good job putting it together. 

In other news, I planted vegetable seeds last week, and the cabbage are already sprouting.  Not many seeds as compared to previous years, but still about 150 starts.  All vegetable seeds for this years garden, with one exception, are heirloom seeds.  I am also finalizing plans for the garden and will post a plan as soon as it is finalized.  Planning over 5,000 sq. ft. is not as easy as I expected, especially now that I also have to determine how to irrigate the garden.  there are also 7 fruit trees in the driveway ready to plant – 3 apple, one nectarine, and three cherry.  Still have two apple, two chestnut, and a peach to buy. 

Summer Sausage–Part II

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The sausage is done!

This was a long smoke, but it seems well worth the effort.  First, a couple of comments about things to do differently next time. 

As mentioned in Summer Sausage – Part I, the sausage was too long.  This caused the sausage to be positioned hanging by the sides of the smoker, which may be cooler than the center.  So, shorter sausages in the future.  I also need to pack the sausage a bit tighter and pay more attention to air pockets.  There were a few fat pockets that formed due to light packing and air pockets.  Have more cold beer ready on smoking days – had to put some in the freezer to get it ready to drink.  And finally, take more pictures of the final product.

Now, for the good.

The sausage is great.  Perfectly formed, perfectly spiced, consistent color, texture, and taste throughout all of the sausages.  I tasted a sample from each sausage as I packaged them, and all were the same.  While I am not sure if this is the absolute best Summer Sausage I have ever had, it is certainly one of the top two, and I know every ingredient that went in these sausages, so I feel good eating them.

When I make this sausage again, I may change the spices a bit for half of the batch.  I would like to add more red pepper flakes, more garlic, and more whole and cracked pepper.  I may also add some buttermilk, which I forgot to do this time, to give the sausage a bit of a tang.

Also, the A-Maze-N Smoker worked great and produced about 5 – 6 hours of light smoke that flavored the sausage quite well.  If I use it to make something that requires heavier smoke, I will simply light it from both ends. 

ETA:  The yield was:  10.65 pounds

The below of a picture of the final product as I was getting ready to vacuum pack and freeze:

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Sunset–01 February 2014

A view from the back deck on the 1st of February.

 

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Beer

10Barrel_012014_DSCN0334We went to a local Boise brewery (10-Barrel Brewery) to sample some beer and to have lunch. While the lunch and service was good, the beer was a bit lacking.  With a couple of exceptions, of the 20 samples we had, I found that the beer had very little to no body, a strange aftertaste, and simply not to my liking.  I am sure that there are many people that enjoy this type of beer, just not me.  Then again, many of my beers, especially the stouts and porters, are thick and chewy.  Of course, I am not a beer expert – but I know what I like and what I do not like, and I did not really enjoy their beer. 

So…I once again set out to brew another beer – my 9th Idaho brew.  This time I went back to another favorite, the Amarillo IPA.  The source for this recipe, an extract, can be found here, at HomeBrewTalk.com.

I changed the recipe a bit from previous brews to take into consideration ingredients that I was lacking, and ingredients I wanted to get rid of.  So, a bit of 2-row replaced some Pilsner and I had 10 ounces of Cara-Pils that I wanted to use.  I also changed the hop schedule a bit from previous iterations of this brew.  With the exception of the 80 minute addition, all hops were whole leaf, and the garage smelled wonderfully of citrus during the brewing process.  This IPA is in the computer room completing its fermentation and is coming along nicely. 

Recipe: The Bearded Hen Amarillo IPA14Jan14_DSCN0337

Boil Size: 7 gallons
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 90 Minutes
SRM: 7.2
IBU’s: 74.4

Grain:

86.1% – 11 lbs. Pilsner – German 
5.0% – 10.2 oz. Cara-Pils 
5% – 10.2 oz. Crystal – 40L
3.9% – 8.0 oz. Pale Malt – 2-Row

Hops:

1.50 oz. – Amarillo  – 80 Minutes
1.25 oz. – Amarillo  – 15 Minutes 
1.25 oz. – Amarillo – 5 Minutes
1.0 oz.  – Amarillo  – 0 Minutes 
1.0 oz.  – Amarillo  – Dry Hop – 7 Days

Other:

1/2 tsp. – Irish Moss– 10 Minutes

Yeast:

1 pk. – Wyeast Labs #1056 – American Ale – No starter this time

One item that made brewing this beer enjoyable, was the new addition to the garage – we had a sink put in, and it makes brewing and other things way more enjoyable than using a hose in the driveway.  The plumbing company (C R Higer in Caldwell) did great work with two very pleasant plumbers, and came in a whopping .60 cents over their estimate.  I will definitely use them again.

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Photo of the ?

The image below is of our property, looking toward the house from the shed.  Taken 17 January 2014. Click to expand picture.

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Six Month–An Update

01Jan14_Sunrise_300_1612It has been a while since I have posted, so, to make up for that issue, here is a picture of what we see almost every morning.

The image on the left if of sunrise, 01 January 2014 – a beautiful start to the New Year. 

In the mornings, with the exception of mid December when it was cold, we usually sit outside, drink coffee, and watch the sunrise.  Sometimes it is a bit foggy, but unless it is cold, we still sit outside in the mornings.  It is pleasant, quiet, and sometime entertaining with all of the birds and other animals.  In the summer and fall, when sunrise was to early for us, we sit outside and watch the sunset and later the stars, which is equally as enjoyable and beautiful as the sunrises.

We had flowers on the plants until the end of November when we started to get hard frosts at night.  The daytime temperatures were still quite warm until the second week of December.  In December and we had a few days with negative temperatures, but most days were in the 20’s or higher.  Temperatures are once again warming, and yesterday it was in the mid-50’s and sunny.  Looking forward to Spring, and have already received part of my seed order for the vegetable garden.

Since everyone likes sunrise pictures, here is one from 28 November 2013.  As with the previous image, these were taken from our back deck where we have coffee in the mornings.  Also, the Thanksgiving Turkey, our huge (less than one inch on 07 December 2013) snowstorm results.

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While I have no pictures of them (yet), besides the regular farm animals, some of the animals that have visited us are a Silver/White/Gray Fox, a few Wolves, a very large cat critter (mountain loin?) that ran across the front of the property, several types of hawks and falcons, owls, and billions of Canadian Geese, which seem to over-winter here – Geese are everywhere. 

In closing – An image of us on our annual Christmas outing:

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Frost and Beans

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As can be seen in this rather poor image of the house, it is the 3rd of November and the flowers are still blooming. 

We are pretty much done with gardening now, and are simply waiting for Spring and planting.  The new garden areas that I have prepared include a 1,000 square foot grape growing area, a 4,550 square foot general garden area, enough space for 20 new fruit trees, and a 180 square foot onion area.  We will also be doing a separate squash/pumpkin area in the Spring or late Winter.  Work on the Chicken Coop is being delayed until I decide what type of design I want – I keep changing the design.  It will be done before Spring though.  I hope.

We woke up on the 3rd and saw that the hill in the distance were white with frost.  The camera did not capture 03Nov13_DSCF2040it well, but it was quite pretty.  As I have said previously, I need to quit using my point and shoot, and start using my real camera.  At the house, the temperatures are still in the mid to upper 50’s during the day, with the occasional mid 60’s day, while nights range from the lower to mid 30’s.  Quite comfortable and no snow or hard frost yet. 

The only other new thing is that I canned another 18 jars of baked beans, and they are quite good.  We are starting to be able to limit our shopping items to dairy, vegetables, sugar, and flour products such as white flour and masa.  We now buy almost no processed (canned) goods.  Tortilla chips are the exception – have to have tortilla chips.  Hopefully, next year we will be able to eliminate the need to shop for vegetables also.  No plans for a cow yet – but maybe…….a goat……

Beans: 

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Happy Halloween!

Simply images of the candy necklaces we made to hand out on Halloween, and some pumpkins:

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