Aebleskiver!

That’s right, you heard me! I have been neglecting my farm blog…a bit. When my regular blog is only updated weekly (who am I kidding…every two weeks is all I can manage lately), this space has gotten shafted…a bit. But I’m going to rectify that, because it’s Christmas and there is definitely some glorious holiday goodness happening on our farm. We bought our first real Christmas tree (my husband’s mom was sensitive to the smell [think allergy, only slightly different] when he was growing up and I was all about saving money in our early years as a married couple). But when our fake tree officially kicked the proverbial bucket (thanks to cats chewing through light strings and treating it like their own personal kitty tower), we knew this year it was time. We came home with an 8 foot Fraser and I squeal each time I go in the front room, because Alleluia, it smells like Christmas!

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Corra was throwing a fit because…actually I’m not entirely sure why. I probably set her down to take the picture. I’m inconsiderate like that sometimes.

Also the last few months stressing about why we didn’t have any kits has led me to finally learn that more often than not, animals know what they are doing better than I do. We have two beautiful litters of the prettiest bunny babies I’ve ever raised. Their mamas are doing well and in a few weeks we should have 14 bouncing handfuls of joy for the kids to hold. Perfect timing, I think.

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These are both excellent reasons to kick me out of my blogging slump, but they are not the reason that brings me here today. No, that reason is aebleskivers.  When my dad came through on his annual trip to St. George, he gave us an early Christmas present…a cast iron aebleskiver pan to add to our collection of cast iron cookware.  I think we surprised him when seasoned it after he left so that we could use it that night for pizza bites. Here’s how it works:

[pictures from our Thanksgiving trip up to Sundance, UT…sorry for the lighting weirdness]

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Traditionally, its a breakfast food (see babies in jammies) but we also did savory ones too and dipped them in pizza sauce for a jazzed up dinner. You heat your special pan fairly hot and butter it well. Then you pour in a basic pancake batter (recipes abound on the internets) and fill each of the 7 wells just a bit more than half way full.

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You let them cook until their are bubbles in a ring (kind of like pancakes). Then you take a knife/chopstick/skewer/something pointy-ish and you push and pull and slide it up one side. This is why a well buttered, well seasoned and hot pan are so important!

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The uncooked batter spills out and starts to form another side. At this point you can add fillings like apple pie filling, chocolate chips, cheese (for a savory aebleskiver), or leave them plain, which is what we did. New Years Day, however, Apple Pie Skivers are happening!

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Once that side cooks, you turn it again and the same thing happens. Usually we turned it three times to get a solid ball or at least one with a very small hole.

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We just piled them in an oven-safe bowl and kept them in a warm oven until people wanted to come grab them. I love that they are all the great things about pancakes, but so much more kid/mom friendly! I would break them open a bit, spoon in some Nutella and hand it to a kid…no plates, no sticky! Traditionally they are served with jam and powdered sugar, but on my list are: strawberry shortcake style, Peanut butter banana  and syrup, and peperoni pizza bites. Oh and just for fun we tried it with eggs. Totally works!

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and New Years and that you find things as joyful as fresh tree smell, baby bunnies, and aebleskivers to warm your homes! Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Morone Saxatilis x M. Chrysops

That would be hybrid stripped bass to the rest of us.

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And now we have 100 of these lovely fish. Well 99 ish, one died a few days ago. But they are here! Finally! Our aquaponics system growth has been…um…less that expected and less than optimal. We are learning though and slowly but surely resolving problems. The water pH is in a much more plant friendly range and the temperature is cooling off. All that the system needed was fish. Well more fish. Turns out when they said 20 lbs. of fish minimum to insure enough stuff for the plants to grow…they didn’t really mean a hundred minnows and 50 ish gold fish. We made do with what we had available but finally we can start moving forward. These guys eat like crazy! It’s like Shark Week in miniature three times a day with the feeding frenzy that happens. Its so weirdly reassuring to know that that food is going to be pooped out in copious quantities thus feeding my plants. The bunnies are already loving the kale and basil.

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This kale raft is the only one that was doing really well and it was the raft right next to the inflow from the fish tank. Go figure. The rainbow chard has perked up a lot too. All those empty holes in the background are a problem though. Grow fish!

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I had convinced myself that this system wouldn’t really work for anything that needed a flower to grow, we’d just use it for greens. My cute little yellow squash plant has proved me wrong with a nice full sized squash that might be breakfast this morning. The basil is bolting and the leaves are small, but they are so tasty! So funny story about basil and me learning stuff. I planted probably 50 basil seedlings…in February and then again in April. [Waits for laughter to die down]. Yeah, I didn’t realize that basil is not a cold weather plant, at all. No, No it quite preferred our ridiculous summer heat, which explains why it all died until I planted in May (to use up the seeds) and the heat set it. Lesson learned! Anyways. We are really excited about the possibilities this fall and winter for lots of greens and we should have our first rabbit litters of the year in a few weeks!

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if you give a mouse a cookie…

Or more appropriately: if you give a seed some water, chances are it’ll want some dirt to go with it. And if you give that seed some dirt, it might demand that you water your comfrey plant nearby with it’s planter full of manure so that all the nitrogen goodness leaches through and directly on the seed. If you give in to these demands that rogue pumpkin seed will grow into a vine that will then take over your entire front porch. When it takes over the porch it might just start growing two tiny green pumpkins. When these pumpkins grow big enough they might just be turned into jack ‘o’ lanterns. The jack ‘o’ lanterns will produce seeds of their own. And if you put those seeds in dirt, they might just want some water to go with them.

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When I started watering this comfrey plant (which has since scorched to death in this stupid sun) this little zucchini looking thing popped up. The only thing I can figure is that a seed got away from a jack ‘o’ lantern and woke up when it started getting wet on a regular basis. There are currently two pumpkins about the same diameter as a quarter growing, so my curiosity is allowing this ever encroaching behemoth to carry on doing it’s thang.

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And turns out when the packet of watermelon seeds says 3-6 feet spacing for the hills…they were serious. I can’t even walk through the beds very well any more, but I do get to play a rousing game of “find the new melons” every couple of days. We are up to 9 watermelons and 4 cantaloupes. Any tips on knowing when I can devour them?

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I haven’t discussed my little 4 tree planter orchard, because I would have to admit that I bought them last, last May. Buying fruit trees so late in spring is a major horticultural faux pas in the desert. However, since I have 14 happy little green lemons growing nicely, and 1 lone pomegranate, and we already enjoyed 3 absolutely divine peaches from our dwarf peach tree…I’m not a total arboreal failure. Now if only the heat would stop making me want to climb in my fridge and not leave until September, we’d be golden.

 

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stuff’s growing…

A few months ago someone posted a blog article about a goat dairy in Colorado who changed two big things about they way they ran their dairy. The first was transitioning from their full sized breeds (mostly Saanens with a few Toggenburgs) to the mini diary breeds (any full sized diary doe crossed with a Nigerian Dwarf buck). Theoretically, all the butterfat and protein and most of the quantity for a bit less feed. Secondly, they started giving their goats sprouted grain when they were being milked instead of a standard dry grain mix. The owners of the diary could not say enough about how the sprouted grain improved the health of their herd and the quality of the milk. So my thought was…Pssh, I can do that!

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As you can see on my crazy cluttered counter…I have three bucket sets going all the time. At night I have 4 because there is a new batch soaking, but I’ll explain that in a minute. The inner bucket has holes drilled into the sides and the bottom so that I can fill the bucket with cold water and then drain it in the sink. On good days I rinse them three times a day and keep a wet paper towel on top to prevent them from drying out. Busy days I do it in the morning and at night. So every morning the Farmer man takes the oldest bucket and feeds it to goats while they get milked, and if there is extra it goes to chickens. I really need to start a dedicated bunch that would be just for the chickens, especially with the new chicks, but more on them later. In the evening I fill up a new bucket with the grains and then cold water and just let it soak over night. Then it goes into the rotation. We do three days because the article mentioned that longer than 3 days and the corn starts to get really funky.  They were so right. It’s like…dude…fuuunkeeeey.

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I’m using a mix of corn, barley, black oil sunflower seeds, and two different kinds of wheat (red hard and white). Here is the morning after it has been soaking, and the day it goes out to goats. Some of them didn’t care for it at first, but this was really interesting. We have one doe with very poor body condition and her coat has always been terrible. When we went on vacation she got sick and we thought she was going to die. She gobbled this stuff up from day one, even when she wouldn’t touch hay. I wish I had a before and after picture set because it has been an amazing transformation for her.  Our other ladies have come around and now they all love it. Quality and quantity of the milk are both up and our girls are happy.

Other things that are growing besides sprouts on my counter:

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More babies born on Sunday. The black one (Blaze) is a buckling and was the bigger of the two. The tan one (Princess Snowflake Light) is a doeling, of course. Two guesses as to which of my human kids named which goat, ha! The heat has been trying to do them in which is why I’ve been bringing them in the house during the day. At night they go back with mom. Bathtubs are great goat pens and it doesn’t matter at all when they drool all the milk and Pedialite all over the place.  That is…when Layna hasn’t walked in and stolen the Pedialite bottle and drunk it all gone because I had both hands busy feeding Snowflake milk! Goat spit is clean, right?

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18 new baby chicks to replenish the flock. Ten Welsummer hens and two Welsummer roosters. The other six are Silver Spangled Hamburgs. Both breeds are supposed to be very friendly, good layers, and very heat tolerant. I’m just excited to have eggs again and baby chicks to chirp at me all day in the mean time.

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And last…but definitely my favorite of the baby growing things around here. My Corra is going to be 10 months old tomorrow! That’s not allowed! Actually, I don’t mind it so much. I mean I do because it is going fast, but I’m trying hard to enjoy every second of every stage she is in, so I truly don’t have any regrets as she grows older. She is delightful and I’m so glad Someone knew much better than I did that I needed her desperately, even if I thought I wanted a boy.

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Comfrey!

I first heard about Comfrey from this blogger. I thought, “huh, that’s kind of cool” but I filed it away somewhere in my brain under “Cool stuff that probably will never apply to me.” Raising live stock, especially rabbits and goats was in that file at one point. Then it popped up again from checking out this guys site  when I was on my mad bunny researching kick. I emailed him back in February about buying some since our desert growing season was just kicking off. He very politely reminded me that as he lives in  Maine, his Comfrey beds were under 2-3 feet of snow. Right! I forget how the majority of the country does winter. I kept in touch and did some more research on this crazy cool plant, and I’m happy to report that I now am the proud owner of four Comfrey plants, that are happily planted and doing their thing. Which is what, you ask? Why get so excited about a plant? So glad you let me assume that you care enough to listen to me babble! [Babble commencing in 5…4…3…2…1…]

So there was a guy named Lawrence Hills who became enamored of this ancient healing plant and became the foremost expert on it. He developed 21 different strains. From what I can glean from the internets, Bocking #4 and Bocking #14 are some of the more common ones cultivated today. #4 is preferred for use as animal fodder because it is less bitter (ergo the animals will actually eat it) and #14 is preferred by gardeners because it is naturally sterile (but not to worry…you can propagate by root cuttings) so won’t invade and conquer your garden in a few weeks. We have #14. There are texts outlining its use farther back than the Middle Ages, and its name “Knitbone” is very appropriate as it is remarkable at healing broken bones, burns, cuts, etc. Basically anything in which the body needs to regenerate new cells quickly. I will save you my geeky enthusiasm for the science behind that, so on we go to why my inner gardener is squealing with joy right now. Comfrey has a unique ability to leech all sorts of good stuff from the soil. Nitrogen especially. So it grows crazy fast, straight up with huge leaves that it has pumped full of all the good stuff it took from the soil. Here’s the magical part. Those leaves are not very fibrous, meaning they break down quickly. You can take the leaves and lay them in your garden around your plants and as the leaves break down they give all the lovely nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the surrounding plants in an easily accessible form. Liquid fertilizer is also really easy to make with Comfrey if that’s what floats your gardening boat. Pile a tons of leaves into a bucket and smoosh down with a brick. They will decompose into a black sludge that you then dilute 15-20:1 water to sludge (it’s potent stuff) and then water your plants. No more Miracle Grow for me! I’m stoked to have found a more efficient conversion vehicle for all the poop unprocessed nitrogen laying around my yard. Hopefully the bunnies will love it, as others have had excellent success using this for animal fodder. I’m pretty sure the chickens will love it and if the goats do too…well that’s just gravy.

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You can’t see them, but they are there…I’m excited to post more pictures in a few weeks of the towering tree creatures that they should be.

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Growing things that also make me smile. First sunflower and barley seeds that are sprouting to be green manure.

 

 

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Sushi and an Anniversary

Nine years went fast, but I’m glad I married my own personal famer man.

http://comfyposy.com/2014/04/25/sushi/

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Green is nice.

You know, as opposed to black. Green means I haven’t killed everything, and that is huge for me! First up: The Aquaponics System…

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I finally got around to planting out the nursery trough when the holes were allowing enough sunlight in to create a serious algae problem. Nothing like green film to get you motivated. I just planted a ton of whatever to use up seeds in random packets to get the holes filled and covered. There are plenty of holes from our first plantings that need to be replaced but I haven’t gotten to it yet. The most recent stuff is doing well. Not as amazing as it will be doing when the system matures and we figure out how to get the whole thing balanced, but it’s a start.

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So strawberries. Like whoa! I got dormant plants from a good friend and they have done really well. Our weather has been screwy so everything is happening about a month sooner than normal and they aren’t all growing/ripening at the same rate (even though they are June bearing). It’s been so fun to take the kids out every couple of days and go on a strawberry hunt before the birds get them all. Next year I might order sets and do a whole trough of them. Then maybe I’d get enough for jam or something.

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Holy walking onions Batman! These things have gone crazy, so I think I’ll take the new tiny ones and see how they do in the rafts. Can’t hurt to try. There are also carrots in there and the kids like to pull them, eat them and toss the greens into the bunny pen. Gardening is awesome!

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The picture on the left doesn’t really convey the ridiculousness of my cilantro plant. It is probably 2 feet tall and I’ve even been using it a lot. I figure since it’s so dead set on bolting, I’ll let it and try my hand at collecting seeds. Next to it is a lady bug haven…or a gargantuan Swiss chard plant. Also thinking that one will bolt and I’ll try for some seeds. Then there is lettuce and spinach which I’ve been eating for the last couple days for lunch and it’s tasty stuff. The picture on the right is a bed of zucchini and a sunflower and a watermelon. They are all doing well so far. The tires have some tomatoes that are on the brink of death and another watermelon that just makes me smile. It’s a happy plant.

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These are two halves of the same bed. This bed makes me smile too. In the bottom left corner is a catnip plant. I thought it would be fun for the cats and boy was it…the stupid things kept digging it up! I’d put it back and they’d dig it up. Finally in December I gave it up for lost (with the rest of the bed) but around February it came back with a serious will to live. The cats still love it, but now I pull off leaves and let them get into a drugged, happy stupor. We also have a cabbage I planted in September, but since this bed doesn’t get any sun all winter (doh!), it started growing in February. There are also some lovely yellow squash plants that were supposed to be pumpkins but I think the signs got switched and I wasn’t paying close attention. Sigh. Oh well, they are making really pretty and yummy little 3-inch squashes so I can’t complain. There are also some sunflowers filling in some space.

It has seriously been life changing to have a garden actually growing and growing stuff that I actually enjoy eating. Yes. I’m hooked and my gardening habit might get out of hand…You know I’ve got big plans for expansion and I’m already plotting and scheming about my fall garden.

 

 

 

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