22 jars of radishes on the wall

While grocery shopping this past week, I noticed they were having a screaming deal on radishes but didn’t have many in stock (maybe 2 bunches). I mentioned this to Shane as our radishes in our garden do okay but not enough to make radish pickles. They are excellent on sandwiches, but we haven’t made any for about two years.

I get home Wednesday to find that they had restocked them and that my husband bought 22 lbs. of them (weight post stem removal). I guess he has been jonesing for some radish pickles. He said he bought some, then decided we needed more so went back for a second batch. Then when getting beer, he decided we needed even more.

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I scrubbed and trimmed while he worked the mandolin. They then got to soak overnight in brine. A few we set aside to make radish kimchi. That evening I made three large jars of the kimchi.

The next night, Shane simmered the radishes in the vinegar seasoning. It took three large pots to hold them all. I hot packed the jars, and Shane got them in the water bath. By the end of it, we had 22 pints of pickled radishes. Thus this begins Summer 2017 Canning Palooza!

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Mid-Summer Aspirations

It is mostly in the summer when I have moments where I think that I would love to learn or do X, Y, or Z. Then the ducks are out of water, the dogs need dinner, and the garden weeded. Inspired by EcoFeminst, I thought I ought to start recording my homesteading goals so I can remember them. And perhaps one day accomplish them.

–> Perfect bread making. I can make basic bread, but I’d like to expand and get quick at it so we can stop buying store bought bread.

–> Learn how to mill our own flour.

–> Make our own vinegars.

–> Make vegetable, duck, and chicken stock from our garden and birds.

–> Get over my fear of the pressure canner so I can stock and beans. I may need to con my mom in helping me since she has done more of it then I have.

–> Dry my own herbs.

–> Grow herbs and greens year-round inside in Alaska! I’m going to even drag in a few of my tomato plants inside this fall to see how long I can keep them.

–> Overwinter our bees. Not an easy feat when you have -40F winters. Our current plan is to drive our bees 5 hours south of Fairbanks and put them in my parent’s old trappers cabin. The look on my mom’s face when I told her our plan was priceless. It was that or in her crawlspace at her home. 😉

–> Expand the garden, so we have enough to can and put away for winter. We pretty much eat as we harvest. I plant more, and we simply eat more. I need enough where we cannot out eat it.

–> Save seeds. This year I planted everything from seed. I’d like to eventually not even need to buy seeds but baby steps.

I’m sure I’ll think of more as I go. As for now, I have some rhubarb that I harvested that needs to be made into jam! Blueberry rhubarb jam, peach rhubarb jam, and salmonberry rhubarb jam, plus watermelon rind pickles are on the agenda today.

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Rub A Dub Dub a Chicken in a Tub

One of the chickens has some bathroom issues. She gets a poop build-up on her back end. Google has not been very helpful, most saying that it is a chick problem and they’ll grow out of it. She hasn’t. One suggested a possible yeast infection. It is pretty much diarrhea that gets stuck in her feathers but doesn’t block her vent.

Following a mashup of Internet wisdom, the chicken got a spa day. She was cooperative but not pleased about having her butt stuck in a nice Epsom salt bath. I tried to explain that this is a luxury but she was not convinced.

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After the bath, I made a chicken burito which in fact one day may be her fate (these are meat birds). By this point, she was pretty much game for whatever I had in store for her. Chickens are so much more chill than ducks are.

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Since hanging out in a towel in the laundry room was going to take all evening and we both had other things we’d like to do, I turned to blow-drying my chicken. This was, in fact, her second favorite part of the whole ordeal, she even started preening for me.

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She got some iodine on her backend before I stopped harassing her and allowed to go forge with her feathered friends (her favorite part). Hopefully, this works, and she won’t need a weekly bath though it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

Any other chicken folks have this problem? Any suggestions or tips on how to deal with this beyond Epsom salt baths and iodine on the rear?

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Inch by Inch, Row by Row, Gonna make this Garden Grow

It is hard to believe it is already the end of June and we still have 23 chickens and four ducks living in our garage. The coop is well underway, and we hope to get the birds moved in before we head to Seattle next week, it will make it easier for the critter sitter and more enjoyable for everyone. We salvaged a ton of plywood from some crates from work but needed to remove the pallet framing. It actually took us less time than I feared. The plywood will be the walls and the 1x4s for roosting trees. I think the coop is large enough for some chickens and perhaps one day two goats. One day.

While the baby birds spend their nights in our garage, during the day, we have started to let them free range with the big birds. The chickens are a little leery of leaving the safety of the garage whereas the ducks head straight for the pool.

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The chickens have also taken to emptying their entire feeder, making a huge mess. They’ve always been the clean birds compared to the ducks. It took us a little while to figure out why they were doing this. Shane had mixed their standard feed with rolled oats. They were digging the oats out of the normal feed to get at the goodies. We won’t be doing that again.

Everyting in the garden is going gangbusters including the weeds. I spent some time enjoying my tomatoes and lettuce while weeding. I started everything this year from seed, including the weeds. I’m pretty proud of myself, and it makes that kale taste oh so much better.

Summer has arrived in Interior Alaska!

Everyone spent the weekend outside. It made it into the high 70s, and for the first time, it felt like summer had finally arrived.

We drug the brooder out which also serves as our chicken tractor. We attempted to fence the ducklings in, but they quickly escaped. We simply had to keep the jerk big birds north of the house and the babies south of the house. The baby birds were so excited to feel the dirt and eat the greens – like it was a big privilege. The big birds, they are a bit more demanding, and for them, they feel it is a right. When I get home after work, the start yelling at me from the coop to let them out. I don’t mind, I prefer them out foraging especially since summer is simply too short. I’m thrilled when their winter yellow egg yolks turn that dark orange that only happens in the summer.

Shane worked this weekend on the chicken coop since they are quickly outgrowing the garage. Pressure always makes projects happen with us. I can guarantee that even though we were planning on meat birds next summer with the plan of building the coop this summer to prepare, we’d still be building the coop while the birds lived in the garage. Simply the way we roll. And anytime we get an idea and set a date, fast forward it by a year.

Shane also got his mushroom stand dug out and up. Now we wait. Hopefully, mushrooms should start arriving by August though we should start thinking about how we are going to squirrel proof it.

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It took all of the last weekend, some days during the week, and this weekend but all of the garden is in! Well, except for a few rhubarb plants. That’ll happen tomorrow or perhaps the next day. I thought about taking photos, but everything looks so small and pathetic. I’ll wait till they have had time to get going. Though I’m awfully proud since this is the first year I did not purchase any starts and I started the entire garden from seed.

We also did our weekly hive check. The bees are enjoying this heat and the wildflowers that are starting to bloom. The white area on the one frame is honey stores while larva are a lot darker and get laid in the middle of the frames. Hive inspections check to make sure the queen is laying eggs, the bees are content, and there are no queen cells. This is the time of year when hives swarm (we know, we lost one last year). The bees will hatch a new queen. Half the hive will swarm with a queen and leave half the hive. Not good, so weekly hive checks are a must to squash swarming. Last year between my husband’s double hernia surgery and my work conference, the hives got a few hasty checks, and we paid the price. We live, and we learn, getting better at this every year.

 

Husband says Ludacris would be proud of my hoeing

Year after year, I’ve pretty much hand pulled weeds in the garden. This winter, Shane bought a book called The Market Gardener on organic gardening techniques, and it was all about the hoe. Granted, I gave him shit for buying yet another book (yes, you can have too many books) but then I was enthralled. So many new things to try!

This spring, I borrowed an old hoe from my parents and gave it a go. I can’t believe how much time I’ve wasted hand pulling weeds. In less than an hour (I timed myself), I cleaned out three garden beds and the pea area.

I need to work on my technique though. While hoeing, I knew my bad back was going to be mad at me the next day, and I was so right. Perhaps there are more ergonomic hoes on the market these days?

As for this weekend plans, finishing the hoeing then torching the soil to kill any sprouting weeds before planting (recommended by the book). Official planting outside day in the interior of Alaska is June 1st. We had snow and hail yesterday as a reminder that we have that rule for a reason. Though I think may live dangerously and plant Sunday or Monday.

Before and After Shots:

 

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The old garden area. One more year here before we move to the new garden area. Granted last year was our last and if I’d known I’d have one more year, I would have dealt with some of this in the fall. Live and learn.

Barnyard Bargains

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My husband sent me this image earlier today. I told him I was making no decisions on this matter and it was all him. Can you guess how this ended up?

Well, I came home all eager for my irresponsible husband to have filled the garage with baby birds. He said that it would have been too much work, so he didn’t get any. Talk about some disappointment but some relief.

I bought it for all of five minutes.

We now have 13 Rhode Island Reds and 10 Buff Orpingtons! Our first go at meat birds. Now we only need to build an outside summer chicken house.

The baby ducks have grown – almost doubled – in the past five days.

The brooder is now full. It is made out of PVC pipe and can be divided which comes in handy with ducklings and chicks. It has handles and it light enough for us to carry outside once it warms up a bit. It has a foldable lid to keep the cat and aerial predators out.

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The first thing I noticed between the ducklings and the chicks is the mess around the water. Those ducks do love their water.

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So much for the big plan to hold off until next summer to do meat birds. Now we need to get working on their summer housing!