Friday, January 22, 2016

And Death

I'll spare you the pictures, but last night I went from eighteen chickens, to six.

It was a massacre, and horrible, and my fault, because I was over-confidant in the security of my chicken coop.

That was just moldy icing the rotten cake this week, today especially.

J took his brother to the hospital this morning, probably for the last time.
I believe they are admitting him for in-hospital Hospice care. I don't believe he'll last very long. Maybe not even through this night.

We're dealing with Weather this week.
Not like some people are dealing with Weather, and despite the fact that I'm totally prepared for it, I am just strung out.

My anxiety is through the roof, I'm shaking like I got the palsy.
Adrenalin, I reckon.

ETA: Got the call, J's brother is gone.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life on The Farmstead

Did I mention I got more chickens?

Their names are "Chicken", "Chick", "Girly", "Ol' Gal", "Back it up, Jack", "Don't peck me, butthead", etc.
LOL, I still suck at naming animals. Besides, I can't tell most of them apart.

From two, to eighteen.

I started with the first two - to see if I could even keep chickens alive, lol - then Cousin Joe gave me six pullets, young chickens not yet laying.
He said they wouldn't start laying until next Spring, but some of them did start laying before time change, or whenever the days started getting a lot shorter.

When the days started getting a lot shorter, Cousin Joe's chickens quit laying, and he decided to scale down his chicken crop (but he won't kill and eat them, so he was just going to give them away), anyhoo, I ended up with ten more.

A lady in one of the Chicken Care groups I'm in posted about how she added a string of Christmas lights in her coop, on a timer set so they come on a few hours before sunrise, and this extends the chicken's "day"light hours so they keep laying through the Winter.

So off to Walmart I went and got a couple strings of mini-lights and a timer, and brought it home and fixed it all up, and it worked.
I get anywhere from 6 to 9 eggs a day, and on some occasions 10, 11, and one day they gave me a full dozen.

Not to shabby for some being young, and it being Winter. Can't complain!

Mom bought too many taters for Christmas cooking, so I brought the extra home and cut them up into fries and froze them.

I had been going to dehydrate them, but I panicked.
If you don't blanch potatoes enough, they turn black in the dehydrator.

I thought mine were blanched enough, but what if they weren't? Wouldn't know until it was too late.
They say the black doesn't taste bad, but I prefer to not eat black colored potatoes.

I mentioned in my last post that Dad sent my home with another load of apples.

Most were Grannie Smith's, which I dehydrated.

There were also some Arkansas Black's, which are a sweet and tart apple, really good eating apple. I had been going to dehydrate them also, but for some reason I can't remember now, I decided to make apple sauce out those.

I peeled and cut out the core/seeds for this apple sauce so it would look prettier than the apple sauce I squeeze through my Foley Mill.
I boiled the apples down in a little water, then tasted it to see how much sugar it might need, and to my surprise, it didn't need any.  It was delicious just like it was.

While I had been looking on the internet for apple recipes, I came across an interesting looking idea of adding Red Hots cinnamon candy to applesauce.

I had done that with some jelly I made earlier, and it turned out good, so I decided to give it a go, and tossed a couple handfuls of Red Hots into the pot.

The crazy thing is, it smells like Red Hots cinnamon candies, but still tastes like apple sauce.
Sweet, and no burn whatsoever.

As I've been canning new stuff this Season, I see I still have old stock left, especially a good bit of jams and jellies - and I have several gallons of apple scraps in the freezer still waiting to made into more jelly.

As load after load of apples dried in the dehydrator, I wondered, can you dehydrate jelly? Would that turn into fruit leather like regular fruit?

First I read no, the sugar in it would crystalize, but then I read where some had mixed jams/jellies with apple sauce and dried it and it came out great.

As it happened, I had a few jars of older stock apple sauce on the shelves, too. 
The discoloration is caused by normal oxidation and (supposedly) doesn't affect the taste...but to finicky eaters minds', it's no good, so I figured it would be good to use in this experiment.
(I did taste it to make sure it wasn't nasty or rancid tasting, and sure enough, it tastes like plain ol' apple sauce.)

I think I mixed a pint of apple sauce with a half pint of jelly, but I'd have to re-check to be sure.

Mixed it up good.

This was plum jelly mixed with apple sauce, spread on Parchment paper,

Blackberry jelly mixed with apple sauce,
Ryan didn't love the texture with the seeds still in it, but this one turned out to be my Aunt's and John's favorite. They are already gone now. 

And I had some older stock Apple Butter I decided to go ahead and dehydrate, too, since they ate up my last batch already. This was some my Mom had made. She apparently uses a lot more spices in hers than I do in mine.

Apple-Plum Fruit Leather,

Rolled and cut into roll-ups,

When my work was done (it still isn't done) I ended up with several gallons of dried Grannie Smith apples, 5 pints Cinnamon candy apple sauce, and bags and bags of fruit-leather-roll-ups.

I almost forgot!
The last batch of apples I peeled/cored, I decided I had enough apple scraps for jelly-making in the freezer, so I'd do another batch of Cider Vinegar.

It's brewing under my dining room table.

I likely won't be sharing my dried apples out very much, but I've got a ton of apple scraps in the freezer to make into jellies and apple sauce/butter/leather,

Plus, we're not real big apple sauce eaters.
I read you can use apple sauce in place of eggs or oil in baking, but I haven't tried that out yet.
Besides, I added cinnamon candies to it so I'm not sure if that would affect the taste of cake or something.

And speaking of eggs, those are piling up around here, too.
Not that I'm complaining, but,
I just thought between the extra eggs, and home made jellies and fruit leather, I could try selling the extra and re-coup a little of the money it costs raising chickens and the sugar and Sure-Jell for jelly-making.

I joked one time, calling us "Frawg farm", which I really didn't like that much.
So I thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and....finally I settled on "Bizzy Bee Farmstead" or farmlet.

My first name, Melissa, relates to the Honey Bee in Greek Mythology, so I thought that was suitable and kindly catchy.

I have a Facebook page here: .

Not much there yet, but I'm working on getting some more added.
Got to take pictures. You know, good pictures.
You probably also know, I suck at taking pictures.
 I don't know why I can't take better pictures. It's not fair. I do try, despite how it looks.
Ah well.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Happy New Year's

Well, Christmas 2015 has come and gone, and we're a couple weeks into another new year. They seem to come so quickly anymore.

We had a bit of a different Christmas this year....which is saying something for a 20+/- year Emergency Services family.  We have to change up our Christmas events practically every year to accommodate the work schedule(s).

The majority of those events generally stay basically the same, though.

Generally, I pick a day earlier in December that fits J's and the boy's schedules, and we go that day to the Christmas tree farm and pick/cut our Tree.
Then back at home, J sets up the tree, usually puts on the lights, and everyone puts on the ornaments.
I cook dinner - whatever, not anything in particular - and everyone's favorite Holiday-time treats: chocolate-peanut-butter-oatmeal cookies, rice krispie treats, white/milk chocolate dipped oreos and pretzels.

This year, our favorite Christmas tree farm opened early, the weekend before Thanksgiving - which was a good idea and I had wondered why they never opened until the day after Thanksgiving before - however, they were apparently unprepared for opening during the Biggest Tree Buying time of the year, and had closed - sold out of trees - by the first weekend in December.

It didn't really matter anyway as I wasn't able to find a day that everyone was available at the same time until way later towards Christmas, and I didn't want to put up a tree for just a few days.
So I got J to bring in the fake faux tree and set it up, and I ended up decorating it by myself.

I was okay with that. When it comes to working around work schedules, I'm pretty well able to adjust.

The weekend we typically would have gone to get our tree, J and Ry was off - Dan wasn't, though - me and J and Ry went up to my Mom and Dad's house in the mountains to put up a Tree and decorate and get ready to have a family Christmas gathering up there. For the first time in about 10 or so years, since my sister moved down to Florida, and my parents started living in Florida more than visiting.

While we were there we visited the Bavarian town of Alpine Helen. A kitschy, fun little city to visit.

I particularly wanted to visit Betty's Country Store, which seems to be about the only place near to me where I can find my favorite candy sticks anymore.

Look who we found there - Santy's brother!

And, Ducklips Santa. LOL. I thought he was funny, Ryan thought he was creeptastic.

J and Ryan got Hot Boiled Peanuts, and I got a slab of fudge from Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen, as I have done just about every time I've gone to Helen since I was a kid.

We stayed til after dark to see all the beautiful Christmas lights:

 Traditionally, my side, of my Mother's side, of my family gets together on the day before Christmas, Christmas Eve Day.  For many years we gathered at Grannie's house, and then after she passed it's been at either of my Aunt's houses, or my Mom's, when my Mom and Dad still lived up here rather than just visited.

It's not a formal thing, or an Expectation; the Hostess fixes food, and whoever can, or will, come is welcome.

J and Ry were both scheduled to work on their ambulances that day, so weren't able to attend, but me and Kev went.

But first, we woke up very early Christmas Eve morning to the news of a possible tornado headed towards us.

No, it's not a Global Warming or Climate Change Emergency...just weather in Georgia.

The younger generation - some of the older ones, too - have been freaking out over 70°+ temps in December this year, but it's not like it's a new thing.
I can't remember the exact year, but a Christmas in the early 80's we had the front and back doors open because it was so warm.

It was either the April before, or the April following that, that we got a pretty big snow. In April. In Georgia. Bring on the Ice Age!

I tried researching the dates, but haven't been successful at finding when it was exactly, but I wish I could because I wonder if we'll have Winter later this year, or not much of a Winter at all.

Of course we had that big Blizzard in March of '93....but I can't remember if it was warm or cold the Christmas of '92.

My Aunts tell Christmases they remember growing up through the 50's-60's that were warmer or colder than others, and Weather History gives accounts of warmer temps as far back as into the 1800's or so.

Anyhoo....getting my thought-train back on and Kev went to my Aunt's for Christmas Eve day, where we ate good food and had a nice visit with family.

Later that evening, back at home, Dan had gotten off work and came up, and J and Ry came in from work later on.

This would typically be when we opened gifts, usually that I had bought.

But this year, there was nothing Kev wanted.
There wasn't really anything he wanted the past couple of years, either, but I got him things anyway.
So, he has two working laptops, he doesn't want a Smartphone - is happy with the phone he has with the QWERTY keypad makes it easier for him to text. He doesn't drive. Has a few sets of Minecraft lego's he's never even opened the boxes of. He has a tv he doesn't watch.  Wasn't interested in any of the newer video game systems, or any games released this year. He doesn't care anything about clothes, or accessories.
Not even money.

Not kidding. He helped out our cousin on a couple of jobs over the Summer and got paid, and brought the money to me. I said, That's your money. He shrugged and said, I don't need it.

Well, even though he wanted for nothing, I felt like I would feel bad with him sitting there watching others' open gifts and he didn't get anything, so I didn't buy any gifts to wrap and put under the tree.

Ryan had mentioned wanting a bigger, HD tv, so when there were all the TV sales on and after Black Friday, I got him a 40" Smart tv with Roku built in, and just went ahead and gave it him when it arrived a week or so before Christmas.

Dan had brought some gifts - although I told him not to - so we opened those, and I gave J a comforter/pillowcase set I had found for him to use at the firehouse:

In addition to me not buying gifts for under the tree, Christmas day was different, because my parents and sister and her family decided to come up here from Florida for Christmas this year, and have Christmas at my parent's place in the mountains.

Usually we don't go anywhere for Christmas day.  We would open gifts - early if J had to go work, or later if he was coming in from work - I'd cook a nice breakfast and dinner, but otherwise we'd have a chill day at home.

Some years we would go down to Florida the week after Christmas and visit with my parents a couple days, then my sister a couple days, but this year they decided to come up here instead.

So Christmas morning we all got up at 5:30am.
Santa had left some candy and small gifts - or in Dan's case, a larger gift: $$ - in their stockings.
Kev got some new socks and a couple gift cards to Wendy's and DQ and some candy. He was happy with that.
Ryan got snacks and candy.

Got Ryan's lunch packed and him sent off to work, and the rest of us piled in the car and headed up to the mountains to spend Christmas with my parents and sister and her family.

Mom cooked a delicious dinner of Ham and all the fixins, and all the desserts and treats everyone loves. 

We did a White Elephant gift exchange

Watched my little niece open her gifts

And played fun family games, Rummikub and dominoes

That evening, Dan and J headed back home as they both had to work the next day, and Ry came up to Mom's that night after he got off from work. 

My sister and family headed back home to Florida the next day, I stayed most of the day and helped Mom pack away the tree and decorations, then we came on back home.

My Dad had tried to keep a bunch of apples in a fridge in his basement, which worked the last time he did it, he said, but this time, for some reason the apples weren't keeping and were going bad, so I ended up bringing the majority of those home, and spent several more days peeling, chopping, drying, cooking, etc. apples again.

On December 30th, I got a very nice Christmas gift - a new heat/air system!

Our (downstairs) heat/air system is a one-unit combination of furnace and a/c, so when the furnace went out, it wasn't just a matter of replacing it, but the whole unit. Which we didn't have the money to do.

I didn't do anything special for New Year's.
J and Ry both had to work.
Thought my Aunt was going to cook for me, but she got a better offer, lol, someone else cooking for her.