Happenings Around the Homestead

It is often said here, as in other areas, if you don’t like the weather, wait a day. It will change. This week has been a real example of that. Within a one week time period we went from very low temperatures and greater than a foot of snow on the ground to a fantastically warm 72° F. Welcome to spring in Kentucky!

I was on the road for my job last week, and was anxious to get back home for a number of reasons, one of which being to check the winter sown vegetables. I am very excited to report that many of them have sprouted! Check these pictures out:

Winter Sowing Sprouts

Calbrese Broccoli Sprouts


Winter Sowing Sprouts

German Chamomile Sprouts

So far I see sprouts in the Romanesco Broccoli, Purple Broccoli, German Chamomile, Purple Cabbage, Calabrese Broccoli, Early Jersey Cabbage, Forage Kale, and Russian Kale winter sown containers. Woot! Now to see if they survive the coming cold spell, though I suspect they will.

One thing I am excited about this year is my Back to Eden garden.  While I can’t speak to the success of the garden here yet, I can tell you that I will be able to get my garden out much sooner than I would if I were planting traditionally.  Our ground is absolutely saturated.  Even so, I can walk all over these woodchips and not feel as if I am sinking in at all.  This is wonderful!

Despite the rain on Saturday, I decided to go ahead and plant some brassicas and lettuces:

Kale, Cabbage, and Broccoli

Kale, Cabbage, and Broccoli


Lettuce in the Raised Bed

Lettuce in the Raised Bed

I also decided to spend some time pruning my fruit trees this weekend.  I received some nice pruning equipment for Christmas, which I have been wanting to use, and I am several weeks behind the latest date I wanted to do this, but the weather has not been cooperating at all.  Here are the tools:

Pruning Tools

Pruning Tools

Let me tell you – that saw is sharp!  Don’t ask me how I know that.  However, if you see me over the next few days, you will know how I know.  🙁   If you want to see what happened, you can check it out, but don’t click on the link if you can’t handle seeing pruning wounds.  Seriously, it’s not that bad, but you still may not want to click on it.

I pruned two apple trees and a cherry tree, and I am extremely pleased with how it turned out.  Here are a few before and after shots of the apple trees:

Apple Trees - Before Pruning

Apple Trees – Before Pruning

Pruned Apple Tree

Pruned Apple Tree

Pruned Apple Tree

Pruned Apple Tree

So the point in pruning back so much is to shape the tree as I want it to be shaped, and to limit the height to something usable/reachable for me.  I also want to provide plenty of air flow and sunshine.  While they look a little bare right now, I am expecting them to fill on out as the spring and summer move forward.  If I have done the job right, we should see better apples this year off these trees.

As you can see, I still need to clean up the branches, but that can wait.  I plan to cut up that wood to use for smoking food later in the year.  There are also still a few branches on the second tree (the last picture) that need trimmed, but I need my pole pruner to reach them.  I will hopefully get to that today.

Dairy Tips

I ran across this video of money-saving tips a week or two ago, and I thought it was worth sharing here. I especially like the one regarding eggs, since there is such a reduction in egg production in the winter.

Ford Speed Dating

I am a bit weird – no one has to tell me that.  I get the biggest smile out of these prank videos with professional drivers though.  I could watch the one with Jeff Gordon in it over and over.  There is a new-to-me one out there though, which has a lady and a man who have met as a blind date, and she ends up taking the man for a ride in her car.  Oh my!  This is just too funny!  Enjoy speed dating

The Chicken Chronicles

As I wrote yesterday, this has been a hard week.  The weather has been far less than desirable, which has meant that our chicken coop has had the tarp over it all week long.  That usually takes a toll on the Easter Eggers, but they actually had a pretty good egg laying week.  The totals ended up being 20 for the Rhode Island Reds and 20 for the Easter Eggers, but that is not the big news for the week.  The toughest part of the week may not have been the weather, it may have been the day a hen had to lay this egg!

The Giant Egg Compared to a Quarter

The Giant Egg Compared to a Quarter

The Giant Egg in an Egg Carton

The Giant Egg in an Egg Carton

Look at the size of that thing compared to the others!  It is monstrous!  In fact, it was nearly 3 times as large as a typical egg.  If you are like me, you want to know what is inside of that thing though.  Well, you get to find out.  I videoed the cracking of the egg, revealing something you may not be expecting.  Check it out!

Candidly, I hope that is the last monstrous egg I see, but if nothing else, it made for an interesting video.  🙂

Happenings Around the Homestead

Okay, I am officially sick of winter.  😀  This is the time of year I am beginning to prepare my garden, but as of now there is nothing but snow on the ground.  Thankfully it is starting to melt.  About every decade or so, we get substantial snow in our area, and the trend obviously continued this year.  It wasn’t one storm this year either, it was two back to back storms with just enough time between them for the snow to melt off for a day or so.  The second one packed a greater punch than the first, dumping over a foot of snow at my house.  Did I already say I was sick of winter?

The biggest upcoming challenge is going to be the soggy ground, which is going to be very hard on farmers and gardeners in the area.  Hopefully it will dry out before it is time for folks to till their garden.  I’ll tell you this – there couldn’t have been a better year for me to start my Back to Eden garden!

It has been a very quiet week at the homestead due to the weather, though I do have a very interesting post tomorrow about the chickens.  You aren’t going to want to miss it!

Human Templates

Have you ever seen the photography projects that capture people who look the same, but are unrelated?  I find this stuff totally fascinating!  The most recent one I have seen is one of the best, and is being tagged as human templates.  Enjoy!

The Chicken Chronicles

This has been another week that the chickens have wished would end.  The ladies are so tired of this bitter cold weather, and they have learned that they don’t like snow, not even a little bit.  We have however, been able to lift up the tarp some and give them some light, which has helped a little with the egg production.

I can’t remember if I have shared this before, but we have one, Cinderella, who is a guard of the eggs.  If we check the nesting boxes after they have gone into the coop to roost, she will rush over there and peck at our hands as we are checking for eggs.  This makes it exciting, let me tell you.  🙂  Hearing her run over to the boxes reminds me of the velociraptors in the kitchen in Jurrasic Park.

Blondie, the Guard Chicken

Blondie, the Guard Chicken

The egg production, as I said, was up a little this week.  Not much though. Here are the numbers:

  • Total eggs: 32
  • Rhode Island Red: 20
  • Easter Egger: 12

Not too bad.

This week we are planning on getting two more hens: Welsummers.  You know what a Welsummer Rooster looks like, and you may not even know it.  Cornelious, the Kellog’s Corn Flake rooster, is a Welsummer rooster.  Anyhow, they are supposed to be excellent, friendly birds that are intelligent and great foragers.  Most of all, they lay a very dark brown egg.  I can’t wait!

Happenings Around the Homestead – The Yogurt Edition

Will this winter ever end‽  The bitter cold temperatures have continued this week, though they have been sandwiched between some warmer days.  That means we have had some rain, some melting, some freezing, some snow – sheesh.  While some of the country is used to many days of snow-covered ground, we aren’t here in western Kentucky.  What makes this worse is that it seems we are going to have a wet few weeks now, which will make the ground an absolute mess.  Candidly, this makes me thankful I have went with the Back to Eden Garden type this year.  Those wood chips are going to be a lot easier to work with than mud, that is for sure.

The two things I have worked on this week is finalizing what seeds and plants I need for the spring and making homemade yogurt for the first time.  I’ll spend much of this post on the latter of the two.  The seed ordering had to be done though – we are nearing time to start planting peas and other spring crops, yet with the snow on the ground it isn’t happening just yet.  Perhaps this week I can get some seeds out.  I could probably wait up to two weeks and still be okay, but it is time.

Now, on to yogurt making!

This is something I have wanted to try for a while, but I have just been a little intimidated by doing something new like this.  However, I am eating clean again, which for me is very low carbohydrate.  This means I am avoiding anything low fat, and most storebought yogurt is just that – low fat.  So, I decided to make some of my own.  Basically, the recipe that I used is as follows:

While some would say it is not required, it is advised that all utinsils you are using to make yogurt be boiled beforehand and allowed to air (or oven) dry.  This is to reduce the chance that other bacteria will get into your yogurt mix, thereby ruining it.

  • 1 quart of milk (or substitute – see below)
  • 1/4 cup of a plain commercial yogurt that contains live cultures (I used Dannon)

Heat the 1 quart of milk to 185° F, constantly stirring.  Once it reaches 185° F, remove it from the heat.  Some folks say you can speed cool this by placing a container with the heated milk in cool water, but others say to let it cool on its own.  Once it reaches 100° F, you can add the yogurt.  I recommend two things though.  Wait until it cools to room temperature.  This leaves no room for error.  If your milk it too hot, it kills the live cultures in the yogurt.  Second, I mixed the yogurt in with some of the milk, 1/2 cup, before mixing it into all of it.  It seems to help it mix better.

Once you have mixed the yogurt with a small amount of the room temperature milk you just heated, then mix it in with the rest of the pan.  Stir well.  Now, pour the mix into a container (I used 1 quart canning jars), cover the jars (I used plastic wrap and a rubber band to hold it on), and place them in a place to allow the cultures to grow.  This could be in an oven with just the oven light on, or you could use a yogurt maker.  I chose to put them in our Excalibur Dehydrator on 100° F.  The key is keeping it between 95° F and 110° F.  Outside of that range it may not work.

The yogurt is technically done after 8 hours, but you can let it continue to ferment for up to 24 hours.  Going longer than 24 hours is playing with fire though, as the bacteria will run out of food (sugar) soon after that and begin to die.  Why would you choose a shorter or a longer time?  The longer it ferments, the more tart and thick it will be.  It also will have less sugar left, as the bacteria continue to eat the sugar until it is all gone, at which time the bacteria die.  Ideally, I am trying to achieve just this: as little sugar as possible.  As such, I let mine cook for 24 hours.

Once you remove the yogurt, place it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken.  It may or may not be as thick as what you get in the grocery store, as most of the grocery store yogurts have thickening agents added.  You can do this too with pectin or another thickener.  I chose to not do this.

Now, let’s share some pics and I will share what I did different than noted above.

First off, I made three batches.  Now one thing to realize is that you can make yogurt with many things, it doesn’t have to be just milk.  As long as it contains sugar, the bacteria will grow.  The three mixes I chose are as follows:

  • three cups of coconut milk and one cup of heavy cream
  • two cups of coconut milk and two cups of heavy cream
  • one cup of heavy cream and three cups of 2% milk

Technically, if you just use heavy cream, you will end up with sour cream, but I wanted some of the thickening that the heavy cream would provide.

So, I started with these two ingredients for the first two batches:

Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk

Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk

Once mixed together, this stuff looked pretty nasty.  😀

Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk

Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk Mixed Together

While cooking, I used a candy thermometer along with constant stirring to be sure it didn’t stick and that the temperature stayed correct:

Cooking Yogurt

Cooking Yogurt

Once it was done, I place the jars into the dehydrator to ferment:

Fermenting Yogurt

Fermenting Yogurt

The milk and heavy cream ended up being the most thick – check this out!

Thick Yogurt

Thick Yogurt (3 cups of 2% milk and 1 cup of heavy whipping cream)

That is not a table behind the yogurt – it is a door!  That is being held sideways!  It smelled somewhat of cream cheese.

The other two looked good too, though the one made with the most coconut milk is the most thin, and it could not be held sideways at all.

Coconut Milk/Heavy Cream Yogurt

Coconut Milk (3 cups) and Heavy Cream (1 cup) Yogurt

Candidly, it was milkshake thick.  Here is the one with half coconut milk and half heavy cream:

Half and Half - Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk Yogurt

Half and Half – Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk Yogurt

Finally, here is a jar held normally:

Yogurt - Finished Product

Yogurt – Finished Product

Okay, I am sure you are all interested in how it tastes.  I decided to do a taste testing video for you.  Here goes:


How to Peel Egg

I am always fascinated by the videos and tutorials on how to peel eggs better.  Yes, I am easily humored, I know.  Seriously though, the OCD in me goes nuts when an egg doesn’t peel well.  I have read in more than one place that fresh eggs would not peel as well as older eggs, but I am not finding that to be the case.  Since I have been cooking fresh eggs, I have found the eggs are peeling significantly better.  I can’t help but to wonder why that is.  Even so, I am still always on the lookout for a better way to peel eggs, and this one intrigues me.  In fact, I plan on giving it a try this morning.  I’ll report back here before this post goes live.

How to peel an egg.

So the results are in – this works!  It isn’t quite as smooth as the video seems to indicate, but it does work without tearing the egg up.  I’ll be using this method going forward, at least until something better comes along.

Colorized Historic Photos

I absolutely love historic colorized photographs. This collection happens to be one of the better online collections I have seen. Do yourself a favor and check it out.