Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Residents of The Funny Farm

Huey and husband James
What happened to my cute little balls of fluff?

My post lady told me to get ducks. Their eggs are so rich. Great for baking. And I do a lot of baking!

So when the nearest Tractor Supply had chickens and ducks for sale this Spring I just had to get some. My husband bought himself 6 White Leghorn chickens and I bought myself the cutest little yellow Pekin ducklings.

I named them Huey, Dewey and Luey!

They didn't stay little for long.

Apparently Pekin ducks grow quickly and are at market weight in about 8 weeks. (perish the thought). They grew, it seemed, before our eyes.

Enter Muscovy Ducks
For the past couple of years My husband and I have been involved with the local farmer's market in Dunn. North Carolina. I sell my all natural goat milk soaps and whatever heirloom vegetables we may be growing that year. This year it is cherry tomatoes. But that will have to wait for another post. Next to our tent at the market is a lovely couple, Marie Johnson and Dale Parker. They grow all kinds of vegetables and sell local honey from their bees. This year Marie had some of her Muscovy ducklings with her. There is no stopping me now. I bought 6.

Ducks in a row
Farmer Dale and Marie Johnson at the market

Muscovy Ducks (my mother thinks it sounds like a brand of wine from Trader Joe's) had been domesticated by various Native American cultures by the time Columbus arrived. The first few were brought to Europe by the European explorers at least by the 16th century.

If you're into alternative health treatments Oscillococcinum (thats a spelling bee challenge) is a homeopathic preparation made from Muscovy Ducks that is supposed to relieve influenza-like symptoms.
Adult drake
The Muscovy ducks are also quieter than my Pekins.

Which is a good thing!

Duck in training. Step away from the duck Mr. Fong

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Happy

Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers.

From 1 pack of seeds they grow all over the farm
They come in many colors
The common sunflower is an American native plant. The American Indian was the first to use the sunflower, but there is no written record. Sunflower seeds have been found at several archaeological sites in the United States and early explorers notebooks and journals have information about Indians gathering seeds for food. At prehistoric sites in Arizona, several sunflower disks have been found, as well as designs of the flowers incorporated in their pottery.

After the discovery of America in 1492, the sunflower went to Europe, then onto Russia, and was then reintroduced into America from Russia. Practically all the flowers now cultivated in America were of Russian origin.

This species of sunflower is extremely variable. There are branched forms with small flower heads, which are common in the wild. I love to see them growing in the ditches and abandoned farms in North Carolina. Unbranched forms with massive flower heads, which are cultivated for their oily seeds; and still others with red or double flowers which are grown for their ornamental value.

The greatest medicinal use of the sunflower that has been used throughout the world is for pulmonary problems. It was the main medicinal use of many Native Americans. A decoction was made from the sunflower head, which the Dakota and Pawnee Indians would drink for respiratory ailments, like bronchitis.

Sunflower oil is used in salad dressings, for cooking and in the manufacturing of margarine and shortening. It is used in industry for making paints and cosmetics. The roasted seeds make a coffee type drink. In countries where they grow sunflowers the seed cake that is left after the oil is extracted is given to livestock as food. In the Soviet Union the hulls are used for manufacturing ethyl alcohol, in lining for plywood and growing yeast. The dried stems have also been used for fuel.

The Chinese have used the fiber from stems for fabrics and paper. The interior of the stalk is one of the lightest substances known. The plant’s ability to absorb water from soil has been used to reclaim marsh land in the Netherlands.

The sunflower is a plant to be valued and appreciated for more than just food for birds or an ornamental plant in a summer garden.

Add a few sunflowers to the garden next time you plant and they will put a smile on your face.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thats so Cheesy

"Well life on the farm is kinda laid back"
The business end of Mary
Lyrics from John Denver's Thank God I'm a Country Boy.
I know John has never been to THIS farm. Always something to do. Animals need feedin', barn needs cleanin', babies need birthin', fences need mendin' and the garden needs tendin'.
I milk my small herd of Nubian dairy goats every morning which leaves me with a lot of that creamy white stuff.
My morning routine
Good thing my husband and I love cheese. But we also love goat milk ice cream, goat milk yogurt and goat milk fudge. (Sometimes I think a little too much.) Not to mention the all-natural goat milk soap that I make.

Mary is the herd queen and up on the milk stand first
Yesterday I made cheese. It is a soft, fresh cheese called chevre. (pronounced chev). From 1 1/2 gallons of milk I can make about 3 lbs of chevre.
After putting rennet into the milk, the curds form
The flavor is mild and is suitable for both sweet and savory recipes. Personally I enjoy it just flavored with sea salt.

My goats have a great stress free life. Green grass, warm sunshine and no worries. It shows in the cheese.

The following recipe was sent to me from my mother's nursing school friend in Florida.
Chevre on toast with my homemade jelly

Goat Cheese Truffles
 6 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Make 36 small 3/4 inch rounds of cheese using a melon ball scoop.
Then roll 12 of them in the almonds
12 into the dates
12 in the basil
These are a great accompaniment to tea sandwichs or mini quiches.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Summer Solstice

Summer has officially started with the longest day of the year.

Lucretia and Hannibal Lecter

I love my guinea's. A friend once asked my "WHY" would I ever want guinea's. They are soooo noisy. She was right. Guinea's make the most grating sound. They are the guard dogs of the fowl world.
Up on the roof

But they did warn me when a fox was making rounds on the property and when we had a six foot rat snake trying to get into the chicken coop. But boy can they be annoying when they are sitting outside an open window trying to compete with me when I am making an important phone call. I have even had to go after them with my broom.

Guinea's have a voracious appetite for insects and weed seeds. Even consuming the tick that causes Lyme's Disease.

They also aren't the prettiest of birds.
Looking like some prehistoric dinosaur with a cone head.

My male bird is Hannibal and his lady friend is Lucretia. Lucretia was hit by a car about 2 months ago. I found her laying in the middle of the road. She had a couple of feathers missing and walked with a bit of a limp but Hannibal found her irisistable. She's a tough bird. Guinea's also mate for life. No wonder Hannibal was frantic.

Lucretia has been sitting on a clutch of eggs for the past 2 weeks. They should be hatching in another 2 weeks. The baby Guinea's are called keets. I also put 2 of Lucretia's eggs under 1 of my broody hens. Boy will she be surprised when those eggs hatch!

14 eggs

Lucretia on her nest under the electric fence
Hannibal keeps a close eye on Lucretia

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm Doin My Happy Dance

I guess if you want the rain to come just make a trip to WalMart. The rain came down in buckets. But boy did we need it. And I didn't even have to kill and hang up a black snake.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is There ANYTHING Redeeming about Japanese Beetles?

I feel that there is a reason for everything!
Everything except Japanese Beetles.
The bane of my existence.
Yes, they may be pretty in an iridescent art nouveau kinda way. With their shiny blue green carapace and cute antennae. They seem innocent enough. But wait till they get hungry and attack your plants (in my case grapes and plum trees) in numbers that are hard to imagine.

Feeding on my grapes
In Japan (their birthplace) they are not as destructive because they are controlled by a natural predator. The United States does not have one. Yet! Brought to New Jersey, aboard an iris in the early 1900's. They have found refuge. No state is safe.
After a day of gorging
Waiting in the buffet line
According to the University of Kentucky the trick of attracting them to a beetle trap with pheromones is proving to attract more to your garden than it catches. They can fly far distances. And I swear mine come all the way from Asia to feast.
 But I have found something that is safe for the environment and immediate demise of those nasty beetles. CHICKENS. My chickens love them so much that they run and wait under the grapes.
 Shake a fully loaded branch or vine and open your mouth. Down the hatch.

Those beetles don't stand a chance.