Sunday, September 23, 2012

Today's Take & Booze News - 9/23/12

Today's take isn't really much to speak of, except to mention that Sidney's milk production seems to finally have begun its decline. We "only" got about a quart and a half from her for the past few days, instead of the usual half gallon. Drying off time is approaching.

Drying the girls off to give their little bodies a break, and, to prepare them for breeding back, is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the milk will definitely be missed for the 6+ months that we won't have it. On the other hand, milking during a cold, wet, dark Washington Winter is zero percent fun for the farmer and the goat both, so it makes sense to take a break then.

The hens have been laying a bit less too, not on account of the weather, as we have a pleasant Indian Summer going - for now. Most likely, it is because some of the gals have begun their molt. Molting is the yearly bad-haircut-grow-out phase of chicken adulthood. In years past, the gals have left it 'til much later in the season, counter-intuitively commencing their feather loss just when the temperatures take their great initial dips. This year, it seems that the hennies & roos are slightly ahead of the game.

The real news for today is the booze. ;) Bill and I did our first racking of this year's ciders. My batch is about 2 gallons of blackberry apple cider, made from the juice of 30 pounds of apples and 6 pounds of wild blackberries, and using a packet of Lalvin V-1116 Montpellier cider yeast. Bill's is  nearer to 3 gallons of all-apple cider, made from 70 pounds worth of homegrown apples, and a packet of Nottingham ale yeast. Both tasted very promising, with mine having a very full body, sort of the cider-y answer to a Merlot, and Bill's being very light and crisp, reminding me a bit of champagne on my tongue.

I can't wait to see how these babies finish out!

*Eggs - 4
*Goats Milk- 1 1/2 quarts

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Apples & Pears

Today's and yesterday's combined take from our tiny "orchard" -

*Apples - 141 1/2 pounds! (Our previous record was 50 pounds.)
*Windfall Apples for critters - 13 pounds
*Pears - 20 pounds, 6 ounces (Our previous best was exactly one pear.)

Cider Futures :)

We also got -

*Eggs - 10
*Blackberries - 10 ounces

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Today's Take - 9/6/12

The Fruitapalooza continues. Which means that the juicing/cider-making palooza is up next. Hooboy!

*Eggs - 11
*Blackberries - 14 ounces
*Apples - 3 pounds

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Update: Annabel

As you know if you've been reading this blog long, we recently lost a hen who was very dear to us, sweet Miss Annabel.

She took ill rather suddenly, and over the course of the next four days, continued to steadily decline and was in such obvious discomfort that we felt it necessary to take her to the vet. Setting aside financial and logical issues (we had pretty much accepted that she could not, at this point, be saved), we took her to the one critter clinic in town that even sees chickens, South Bay Veterinary Hospital.

I can't say enough about how sweet they were to us and our chickie.

After making the difficult decision to let Anna pass away in comfort, we discussed what her illness might mean for the rest of our flock. The doctor recommended having Anna undergo a necropsy.

Within a few days, we heard the initial findings - it appeared that whatever illness or disease had killed her had done so via her kidneys and liver, both of which looked abnormal. Today we received the final word on the pathology studies, Annie appears to have had either chronic kidney disease or kidney cancer, which in turn spread to/effected her liver. It sounds like toward the end that she was experiencing multiple organ failure.

It's terrible to think about how much pain Anna may have been in, for God knows how long, before we finally noticed that she was not herself. But at the same time, knowing what we do now, it is also comforting and somewhat reassuring to know that we could not have done anything more to save her, and that what took her from us was not something that the rest of our flock was in danger of also catching.

So, there you have it. Answers that both trouble and comfort us at the same time. We were so lucky to have such a beautiful and sweet girl as long as we did.

Fly home, sweet Annie. xo

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Manly Art of Preserving Fish Eggs

It's not often, or actually ever, that I do much preserving (because this is Billy and not Chelle writing this post, she also writes more than me) but I put my hand to it today. Chelle was kind enough to post the brace of Chinook that I caught yesterday. I was free drifting eggs to catch them, fish roe and they cost me $11.00 for a small plastic container. I've only had some luck with commercial eggs and almost everyone else on the river are using ones that they have cured themselves so noting that I was lucky enough to have caught two hens I set to the task today.

I cured eggs once before from some pink salmon that Chelle and I caught in the salt at Redondo back in 2009. I used a commercial "shaker cure", basically a large plastic parmesan cheese container that was chock full of who knows what but the instructions have you shake it on the eggs and then let them drain. The hot pink dye sticks to everything and is very very strong so the materials you use get used once. I went downstairs to find my shaker cure and it was a solid block of crumbly rock. I resigned myself to going out to buy more until Chelle mentioned that we had borax, and we do, and I remembered that in the days of yore nobody used "shaker" cures.

So off to the interweb I went and found a good bunch of articles. There were those espousing a bed of Borax until the eggs became firmer, those that espoused using a dry mixture of salt, sugar, borax and dyes and even others that used scents like shrimp oil. But the old school cures that I found made a brine from sugar, salt and borax that was brought to a boil before soaking the eggs for about 20 minutes and straining. I like old school so I ran with that. The steps are pictorially shown below.....

First, you butterfly them without cutting the membrane that holds the skeins together and lay them out to dry....

These are the eggs from two King hens, a 9lber and a 12 lber.... Next you prepare a solution of 2 quarts water, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups non-iodized salt and two cups of 20 mule team borax...

After dissolving all of the solids and bringing the whole thing to a boil you take it off the heat and wait patiently for it to come back down to room temperature. After that you place the eggs, cut into smaller clusters, membrane down in the water. They will float. Soak for 18 minutes making sure to stop and "dunk" the eggs three times as you go.

The eggs will firm up (which is what you want so that they stay on a hook long enough to catch fish). After that you remove them from the brine and place in a strainer waiting for a majority of the brine and water to drip off of the eggs....

Then you take them out of the strainer and put them back out on clean paper towels and pat them dry....

Finally, take a one gallon ziplock, add about 1/2 cup of Borax to it and place the egg clusters in then bag. Close securely and "shake and bake" to coat them liberally with the borax. Squeeze all of the air out and place in the fridge for 12 - 24 hours. The borax in the bag will finish the job. Then you can freeze them (if you use a good seal-a-meal the eggs can last up to 2 years).

Finished product, ready for the fridge....

And there you have it... No need for a "shaker cure". Just a simple old school brining that could serve as the basis for fancier cures with different proportions of salt, sugar and other scents added if needed. Best of all, all of these ingredients were in the house saving me the cost of a commercial cure AND I have half a gallon of eggs! That's at least $35 worth of bait at the sportsman's store in town.

Thank you Chelle! Both for the day of fishing and for inspiring me!

Billy Lee

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Today's Take - 9/2/12

Though I wouldn't necessarily consider it part of today's take, I think that it is definitely worth noting here that between my friend Jen & I, we put up 78 jars of jam today. Whew!

Our fruit of choice this year was a case of lovely "Mountain Jewel" peaches. We turned them in to Spiced Peach, Raspberry Peach and Earl Grey infused Peach jams. Not to toot my own horn here, but our jam came out amazing, especially the Earl Grey.

While I was busy jamming away with Jen, Bill was out at the river, landing two King salmon!

Not bad for a day's work! :)

*Eggs - 7
*Salmon - 21 pounds (9 & 12 pounds, respectively)