I bought ducks to use as bug eaters, and have three too many male ducks.  All three are for sale for breeding or bug eating, ten bucks per bird or twenty bucks for all three.  Tell yer friends tell yer neighbors, take my ducks, please!  They are super cute, and very fun to watch in the water.  I was spraying them with a hose this morning, and they loved it.  Ducks are just so cute!  Can't have just one, though, they have to have company.

Beady is a Shropshire ewe and Hallelujah is a Shropshire/Oxford cross.  I have added a photo of Nigel and Beady meeting for the first time, as well some photos of Rosie and Hallelujah in the barn.  Next year I WILL have sheep milk!!

Pursuing Your Passion For Pickles (Recipe: Garlic-Dill Pickles)

Pickles seem like a funny thing to get excited
about. They’re just cucumbers in jars with liquid and seasonings, right? Right,
but some people are quite passionate about their pickles.
A dear friend of mine who is a US transplant living in the UK says one of the
things she misses the most is dill pickles. The shops there just don’t carry
them. On a trip to visit family in the US she returned home with jars of pickles
in her carry-on luggage (not something you can do these days). She got strange
looks, but it was worth it to savor just-right dill pickles.

There is a deli in the Pike Place Market in Seattle that flies in their
pickles every week from New York so they’ll be “right.”

And then there’s my son. Pickles are his favorite food group. He’ll beg me
for a pickle to snack on while I’m slicing some and when he’s eating a sandwich
or a hamburger, it’s got to have pickles or it’s not right.

The beauty of canning your own pickles is that you can make them to
suit your own personal tastes and needs
. Pints or quarts, dill or
sweet, garlic or jalapeno, you can choose.

read more at...

'Swamp People' cast member Mitchell Guist dies (AP)–2 hours ago

PIERRE PART, La. (AP) — A cast member of the reality TV show "Swamp People" died Monday, a Louisiana sheriff said.

Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said Mitchell Guist was pronounced dead at a hospital. He had fallen while aboard his boat on the Intracoastal Waterway, near Pierre Part.

History, which produces the reality show with Original Media, said Guist would have turned 49 on Friday.

"We are extremely saddened to report that our friend and beloved member of the Swamp People family, Mitchell Guist, has passed away. ... Mitchell passed on the swamp, doing what he loved. We appreciate your respect for the Guist family's privacy and hope you join us in sending our thoughts and prayers to his brother, Glenn, and the rest of the Guist family," the network said in a statement.


Last summer after getting my garden going fairly well, I got very sick and had to abandon all the work I had done.  The garden was left to it's own devices, to survive or not at the whim of the weather and bugs.  As upsetting as that was, I learned several things from it.  I used all heirloom seeds to plant the garden last year so that I could gather seeds for the next year when the plants were done.  Heirloom plants are those that reproduce through open pollination, making it possible to gather seeds from the plant in the fall and replant those seeds the following year.  Hybrid seeds are genetically modified and usually sterile, meaning you have to buy new seeds every year.

Despite the fact that my garden was left untended, some of those plants continued to grow within the tangle of weeds, to the point that they set seed.

Fast forward to this year, and lo and behold I have lettuce!  Some of the potatoes that were missed when some my friend Sue came out to salvage what she could from the garden in the fall (Sue is the greatest friend a person can have), hibernated through the winter and began to sprout as soon as the weather warmed up this year.

Beets reseeded on their own, and all different varieties of beans did too, but I had to defer to my husband's tiller and tractor after realizing that my health just doesn't allow me to go out and slog dirt and weeds all day anymore.  If you have permanent beds and can keep ahead of the weeds, letting heirloom plants go to seed can be an easy way to propagate from year to year.  Okra is another happy reseeder that always welcome in my garden.  I even have some squash coming up in my mulch pile.

And don't forget perennial crops like asparagus, horseradish, jerusalem arthichokes, and all the mints, fruit trees and bushes.   Keep planting, my friends, and reap the rewards of food insurance.
My husband is a genius.  We have loads of things to water, and not enough spigots in places that will reach them all without stringing together twenty seven hoses and then hoping they don't kink up a mile back.  We were carting five gallon buckets full of water back and forth in the mule, splashing water as we went.  We looked ridiculous.  And tired.  We are not spring chickens anymore, you know.  We need easy.

We have toyed with the idea of trash can rain barrels for the downspouts and trash can passive heat absorbers for the (future) green house and even trash can composters (which didn't really work very well but that is another story for another day).  Enter mobile trash can orchard waterer, courtesy of my husband's ingenuity.  Lid on, no splashing, gravity fed, large capacity, inexpensive to make.  I had been coveting all sorts of containers to purchase for this purpose.  Hubby made this out of things we already had.  Free and effective; gotta love that.

I love to travel, and experience has taught me the benefits of packing light. 
But no matter how lightly I travel, I always carry along an herbal first-aid 
kit. Being prepared with my favorite remedies gives me peace of mind on the road 
or trail, and keeps me from having to search out herbal products in an 
unfamiliar town — or from having to resort to padding my heels with mullein 
leaves to ease the agony of a broken blister while on a backpacking

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to put my first-aid kit to use, from 
treating blisters and bug bites to motion sickness and colds. I choose simple, 
multipurpose remedies and store them in a small padded nylon lunch box that’s 
always ready to toss into the car. For backpacking trips, I pare my kit down to 
arnica gel, echinacea, peppermint and chamomile tea bags, crystallized ginger, 
insect repellant, a tin of herbal salve, a tiny bottle of lavender essential 
oil, and an assortment of bandages and moleskin.

With the following herbs and essential oils, you should be able to treat just
  about any common condition you are likely to encounter in your travels.

The Herbal First Aid Kit: What to Buy
These are my favorite remedies — the ones I consider indispensable for a 
travel first-aid kit. All of the remedies are available at any well-stocked 
health-food store and by mail-order. Be sure to buy pure essential oils, not 
fragrance oils. To prevent breakage, wrap glass bottles in small pieces of thick

• Aloe vera gel: Cooling and healing, aloe vera (Aloe vera
soothes the inflammation of sunburn and common kitchen scalds and burns.

• Arnica gel or cream: Arnica (Arnica montana) flowers have 
anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties; the gel or cream is 
excellent for sore muscles, sprains, strains and bruises. Do not apply arnica to
  broken skin.

• Calendula-comfrey salve: The bright yellow-orange blossoms of 
calendula (Calendula officinalis) have astringent, antibacterial, 
antifungal, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. Comfrey 
(Symphytum officinale) contains allantoin, a compound that stimulates the
  growth of new tissue and helps heal wounds.

• Chamomile tea bags: With its delicious distinctive flavor, chamomile
  (Matricaria recutita) makes a tasty tea. Gentle enough for children, 
chamomile has mild sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial 
properties. It promotes relaxation, relieves indigestion and, when applied 
topically, soothes skin irritations.

Read more: http://www.herbcompanion.com/Health/Make-Your-Own-Natural-First-Aid-Kit.aspx#ixzz1urcwrtRK

My first butcher day.  It is a strange milestone to achieve, never having killed anything more than a bug.  We had one Barred Rock rooster and three guineas chosen for the day, having rounded them up the night before.  The rooster is one that we had raised from a day old chick and had grown into a mean, abusive bird; mean to us and abusive to his chicken lady friends, scratching all their feathers off of their backs.  He had to go. 

An old guy at the farm store told us that if you separate the rooster for a couple of weeks and feed him as much as he will eat, he will be more tender, as his stress and testosterone levels will be reduced being apart from the flock.  So that is what we did.  By Butcher Day, the rooster had been by himself in the shop for three weeks, eating and eating and eating.  And he was still  trying to eat your face off if you went near him.  Lord how I hated that stupid rooster.

My loyal friend Sue was the impetus to actually getting this done.  I don't think I would have had the nerve to ever do it if it weren't for her desire to learn right along with me.  The little girls and I rode out to Sue's house in the old beater farm truck, four birds in two cages riding along in back, oblivious to their fate.  We stopped at a gas station along the way, and I wondered if the people around me knew what I was about to do, or were just curious as to why the crazy lady in overalls was carting around a bunch of noisy birds.  Perhaps they weren't paying attention at all, and it was just my own guilty conscience yelling at me.

We rolled up to Sue's place, the girls in the back of the truck unsure of how this was going to unfold.  They wanted to go and I wanted them there, to learn that if a person eats meat, something has to pay for it with their life.  It is an unpleasant truth when you are an omnivore, and I truly feel that when human beings are removed from that fact that there becomes a great disconnect from the world, a mental deficiency created in understanding the process of where meat comes from.  It doesn't just magically appear in the grocery stores, wrapped in a tidy plastic package from The Meat Fairy.  I believe everyone who eats meat should witness this process at least once, if for no other reason than to gain some long forgotton respect for the animals that die so that we can eat.  For most of us city folk, watching something be killed, actually bleeding and dying in front of us, is ugly and uncomfortable, something that we do NOT want to admit has taken place every time we eat meat.  It may sound stupid, but it is true.  It is a fact that at some point in our American history of convenience, truth and respect for life have been discarded, as easily as we now throw out a McDonald's hamburger wrapper. 

We had gone to Sue's because her husband has butchered many animals in his day, and we needed someone to show us what the heck to do.  Sue and I had discussed this for months, and I had put it off for months.  She wanted to use the stump/ax method, while I wanted to do the killing cones/razor blade method.  We decided that we would use a stump, prepared with two nails by Sue.  Cully had sharpened the ax and Sue had her whole set up ready to go by the time we got to her place.  Sue had grown up Mennonite, with her mother's side being Amish, so she remembered chickens being butchered from when she was a kid.  I was just hoping those memories would serve us, and the birds, well.

Sue hopped up into the back of the truck and got the rooster out of his cage, grabbing him and holding his head tucked under her arm to keep him calm.  We walked out to the clearing where her garden is, and there was The Stump.  I felt like I was approaching the beheading of one of King Henry's wives.  Beheading?  What was I doing????  It was a bit surreal, I must admit.

Sue moved quickly and got the rooster's head down onto the chopping block, between the nails which were, much to our dismay, too far apart to hold his head in place.  She held his neck down with one hand and I secured his feet with blank minded determintation, having no idea how to have this experience.  I didn't want to disappoint Sue, let her down, or freak out and let go of that rooster.  She struck the first blow with her ax, and it did not cut his head off.  IT DIDN'T WORK.  She struck again, and at this point we were all frantic that the first strike hadn't done the job.  I saw that the rooster's eyes were closed, and I felt a grim disgust at the entire process.  The third blow sent his head to the ground, and Sue held him upside down in the iron supports that she had prepared, but were again too far apart to hold his body.  She held him there to bleed out, but it seemed that all his blood covered the two of us, and he bled very little into the bucket.  My eleven year old was crying, in shock really at what she had seen, and very upset because he wasn't beheaded on the first blow.  We assured her that although his head hadn't been removed, that strike was surely hard enough to have severed his spinal column so that he didn't feel any pain.  At least that is what we were telling ourselves.  Not surprisingly, killing something is supremely brutal.  We were all shocked that we had actually done it.

We took the rooster to the kitchen where Sue had set up a giant pot of boiling water and she scalded the bird.  We went to the deck and plucked him, which was really very easy.  I had read all these stories about how plucking the chicken was the worst part, it took forever and was really difficult.  It isn't.  Yet another lesson learned.  After plucking we went back to the kitchen, where Sue's huband did the cleaning while we watched.  Once the head and feathers are off it pretty much looks like any whole chicken you get from the store, so cleaning it really didn't bother me.  I've cut up many whole birds in my lifetime, so this was a breeze.  And a great anatomy lesson for the girls, as well.

After we got the rooster in the fridge we decided that the stump method was horrifying, and we spotted some old vinegar jugs hanging in one of the outbuildings.  I cut the bottom and the necks off the jugs to use them as killing cones.  After hammering three vinegar jugs to as many trees, Sue got the first guinea.  She is a darned fine bird catcher, by the way.  I put him down into the cone and cut his throat with a box cutter.  The warm blood sprayed all over me, and the girls were afraid I had cut myself.  It wasn't my blood, though; it was the blood of the first animal I have ever killed in my life, all over my hands and clothes.  I still can't really say how I feel about that.  Wrong, and yet right.  Sad, and yet satisfied at knowing that I could actually do it.  Guilty, and yet calm about dispatching the bird quickly.  Having grown up as a kid who loved animals, as an adult who picks up every stray I come across, a woman who loves animals more than humans, it is a very strange thing to kill for food.  And yet, I felt this is something I NEEDED to do, something I wanted to learn.  I feel a responsibity because my family does eat meat, I feel that if we are going to eat animals well then we need to be a part of claiming that life.  People have become detatched from the cycle of hunting and gathering, and I truly feel that that fact is ruining our souls.

We butchered the last two guineas, plucking them and cleaning them faster each time.  By the end of four birds, we were are mentally exhausted.  I don't think we could have done more than four that day.  I left a guinea for Sue and took the two other guineas and the rooster home for us to eat.  I left them in the fridge for two days, to let rigor mortis come and go before putting the guineas in the freezer and cooking the rooster.

I had read and read about stewing laying hens, and that usually around three years old they slow down on egg production and that is when many people butcher them.  The rooster was only one year old, so he was young, right???!!!


I got the bird seasoned and put it in the roasting pan.  Cooked it; it looked beautiful.  After cooling a bit, I began to carve the bird for dinner.  The skin was as tough as leather.  Well, I think, I have never eaten a home raised bird before, maybe they are tougher than store bought birds.  I get the thing carved up and we sit down to eat.  NO ONE COULD BITE THROUGH IT.  It was as tough as solid rubber, and I am not kidding.  The breast meat was super juicy and less tough, but still was like eating something weird and foreign; the texture was just wrong.  I told my family that we were going to eat it anyway, that this bird was not going to have died for nothing.  But we literally could not chew it.  I was furious.  I had killed this thing, and we couldn't even eat it.

I buried the remains of the bird out by my garden where he at least could eventually improve the soil for future food production there.  I have learned that one year old is still WAY too old, and that six months is the longest you want to wait if you plan on having anything other than stew pot chicken.  I still haven't cooked the guineas, I'm too scared to do it.  Sue cooked hers, and said it was "okay".  I didn't kill these birds to produce "okay" meat.  I am full of regret to have killed those four brids, knowing what I know now.  They were too old.  Valuable lesson to have learned.

It took me a long time to get around to writing this story, mostly because I really didn't want to recount that day.  I don't know if I will ever do it again.  If I lived alone, I would be a vegetarian.  Meat just isn't important to me.  It is to my family, though, and they are why I do what I do.  So, I suppose a batch of meat birds is in my future, and I will be having more butcher days.  I will get better at it, and it will be less traumatic for the birds and the kids.  But not for me.  Killing is not in my nature, but I will do what I have to do to keep my family fed.  Keeping my family safe and fed; that is the reason behind my drive to learn all of this. 

I do know that the birds I killed that day lived better lives, and had better deaths, than birds from commerical operations.  If we are going to eat meat that is the least we can do.

Yet another day that proves no matter how much you read, experience is the ONLY teacher worth having.  If you really want to learn how to do something, you must simply get out there and DO IT.  This was a difficult lesson for my girls and for me, but I truly believe it was a lesson worth learning: a lesson that will serve us well in the future at our little homestead in the country. 


I grew up outside.  When I was a kid we weren't in the house unless we were eating or sleeping; every other minute of the day (when not in school), was spent OUTSIDE.  I also spent a lot of time around horses, in stables and on my Uncle's farm in the Missouri Ozarks, so I have had about a billion ticks in my lifetime.  We still vacation in Missouri, and almost moved there before we bought this farm.  I have spent much of my adult life outside as well, gardening and landscaping.  As a result, ticks have just been a fact of life for me.

I have NEVER seen them as bad as they are this year. 

Last year, I bought 17 guinea keets and we raised them with our baby ducks.  I knew that living in the country we would need guineas to reduce the tick population.  I also knew that guineas were ridiculously loud and exceedingly stupid, but figured those negatives were outweighed by their tick eating ability.  Guineas are well known for their ability to decimate tick numbers. 

After butchering three and losing six to owls, we have eight left.  They roam all over the place, eating and eating and eating.  And STILL, every day that I am outside, I find a tick on me.  Perhaps they can "smell" my blood disorder ( I have a clotting disease that makes me bleed profusely), and figure I am going to be a great food source, because no one else in my family gets ticks as much as I do.  ;)

I know my guineas are reducing the ticks because I have a friend who also lives in the country and the ticks at her place are really bad.  However, even with the guineas here, and finally resigning myself to spraying bug spray on myself from head to toe, I still get them.  Late Lyme disease is still on the table as a diagnosis for me, and so I worry about the rest of my family.  Here are some tips from www.thesurvivaldoctor.com about how to deal with ticks and how to identify early Lyme disease.

I absolutely LOVE Raintree Nursery.  They have so many things that you can't find anywhere else, and their customer service is outstanding.  Got all of my existing orchard trees from them, and will shortly be receiving additional plums, cherries, nectarines, sugar maples, paw paws, peaches and pear trees.  It will be quite a
sight when they are all in bloom.  How many years is it until you can tap a maple?  Maybe by the time I am fifty I can make my own syrup. ;)