Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Personals: Lonely Casserole Seeking Lid

Casserole Personals

Lonely 1.5 quart Anchor Hocking Fire King Meadow Green casserole seeking completion.  I've been without my lid for many years, languishing in a cabinet, unused and forgotten.  I have recently acquired a new living situation where I am appreciated and loved.  However, I feel incomplete.  I would love to meet the lid of my life so I can fulfill my full potential.  Might I add I'm curvy in all the right places.  Photo attached.  Serious inquiries only.  I am not looking for a one-night stand with a Pyrex lid.  Signed:  Lonely Casserole


Dear Lonely Casserole:  I saw your ad and knew I had to respond immediately.  For I am a lonely Anchor Hocking Fire King 1.5 quart Meadow Green casserole lid looking for a forever match.  I too have languished in a cabinet having lost my mate years ago.  I long for hot nights together in the oven where we can make beautiful casseroles together.  Should you desire the same, you will find me at an estate sale on XXXX Road on January 17th.  You won't notice me at first, but I will be waiting on a table, a little dirty and ignored, not having received the care and treatment I've deserved.  You will almost pass me by on your way out the door, but fate has other plans.  Until we come together as one, Lonely Lid

Y'all, we have a love match!


Happy homesteading,


Friday, January 16, 2015

The Duck Spa

We have a small stream running through the back section of our lot, and more times than not, it has water flowing through it.  As you can see in my current header photo, the ducks love it.  When we fenced off our animal yard, we had to come up with a solution to bridge the stream yet still let water flow.  This was our solution.

It has worked well to keep everyone on their side of the fence, for the most part.  However, just on the other side of this fence is a lovely little pool of water.  It's shady and inviting.

It taunts the ducks, so they push aside the welded wire to partake.

Yes, we could screw down the welded wire along the bottom.  But really, how can I refuse entry to the duck spa?  Duckie Dale has to look handsome for the ladies.  


Sometimes he takes the ladies one at a time into this private alcove, but that's a video not fit for this blog so we won't go there.

Happy homesteading,


Friday, January 9, 2015

Feeding Rabbits Naturally

Within the last 18 months, I've transitioned my animals off commercial feed.  It's full of GMOs, and I want nothing to do with them.  I wrote about the chickens here.  But I have also transitioned my rabbits to a whole grain mix, forage, and hay.  One of my goals this year on the homestead is to beef up my rabbit forage in the yard.  There are already several native weeds and cultivated perrenial plants growing in and around my yard that the rabbits love.  I just have to harvest them.  Some of them are


Purple Dead Nettle


Wild Violet

White Clover




My rabbits also get to take advantage of my garden plants, like basil, parsley, dill, cilantro, marigolds, borage, mint, lemon balm. thyme, echinacea, fennel, various greens, and carrot tops.  They get clippings from the thornless blackberry brambles and the willow and apple trees.

Though these plants/weeds grow wild in my area, I don't have any in my yard, so I bought seeds this year to grow them.



Stinging Nettle

Whenever I get the opportunity I put my rabbits out to forage for themselves.  This is my rabbit run area, and I plant it with PlotSpike Clover Blend, a deer forage.  I like this blend because it does not contain any rapeseed, which is the basis for canola, another GMO product.  While this photo does not show forage, the one below it is the same area once I seeded it.  It was full of clover and other good weeds.  Not only does letting the rabbits forage save me time, but it gives them the change to exercise and dig holes and be rabbits.  

I also cut out the bottoms of some old rabbit cages and am able to move them around to different areas of my yard for additional forage.

One plant I really hope to get going this year is Moringa.  It is a powerhouse of nutrients and will be an excellent protein source for the rabbits.  My region is borderline on successfully growing it, so we'll see how it goes.

If you want a more extensive list of rabbit safe plants, vegetables, and fruit, take a look at this one.

Rabbit Safe Plants, Fruits, and Vegetables
Some of what I grow is considered medicinal so I always check this list if I'm unsure of what I'm feeding, especially with nursing does as some of these can impact milk flow.

Medicinal Herbs for Rabbits

As always, when introducing a new food, do it gradually!  Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems and even a small amount may be too much for your rabbit.

I'll leave you with some of my grow-outs munching at the bunny salad bar.


Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Finding My Mojo

Somewhere along the way last year I lost my writing mojo.  It's not that I didn't have anything to write about, because I did.  It's not that I didn't have the time, because I did.  As a matter of fact, I probably had more time than I ever had since starting my blog.  I just got involved with life and the blogging world slipped my mind day in and day out.  I even stopped reading my favorite blogs.  I slowly slipped out of the blogosphere in all ways until it was a blip on my radar.

It wouldn't disappear totally though.  That blip glowed faintly, resting quietly until I came along and gave it the energy it needed to shine again.  I needed to recharge and remember why I love the blogosphere and why I started my blog.   I began to wonder how Mama Pea was doing at A Home Grown Journal and Leigh at Five Acres and A Dream.  I missed Susan's wicked sense of humor at e-i-e-i-omg! and Carolyn's at Krazo Acres.  I missed reading about homesteads in other parts of the country and learning about how they deal with situations that would not be a part of my everyday life, like several inches of snow and a shorter growing season.  I missed being motivated and inspired.  I missed writing about my experiences and hoping I could provide some grain of knowledge to someone somewhere out there, and if not knowledge, at least a good laugh at my expense.

Looking back I realize I have been blogging for almost five years, and I don't aim to stop yet.  So, I hope some of you are still out there and are interested in reading. Because I'm interested in writing.

Happy homesteading,


Monday, May 26, 2014

The Babies of Bottle Tree Farm

This has definitely been the year of babies on the farm! Rabbits and chicks and ducklings, oh my! 

In December/January, Bunny and Sophia gave us seven and eight kits respectively.  I sold a few and kept one, but the rest are gracing our table. 

I fell in love with Mimi and decided to keep her.  She's only five months old, but isn't she a big girl already!

In March, Belinda gave me two kits.  Not the best litter in the world in terms of numbers, but they sure were cuties. 

Belinda's litter consisted of a buck and a doe.  I sold the buck and traded the doe for this cutie patootie.  She is part Silver Fox, New Zealand, and Californian, so she should be a big girl as well.  I've only had her a few days, so I haven't chosen a name yet.  I have some good options rolling around in my head though.

A few weeks ago, Vanilli, our super mama hen, hatched out ten chicks.  This is her third year hatching eggs, and she is the best!  And, I have two more broody hens sitting on six eggs each.  This year should be my best one yet for putting chicken in the freezer. 

We got Muscovy ducks late last year, so this is my first year of duck eggs.  I was advised to let the duck eggs collect and that the ducks would know when the time is right to go broody.  Well, the chickens kept trying to go broody on the duck eggs, so I thought for sure they had gotten the clock going on incubation and nothing was going to happen because they were on and off the nest.  Finally Coco, my chocolate hen, decided to get in on the action and she took over.  Out of 26 eggs, 13 hatched.  We've lost two, so we are down to 11.  I think she either stepped on them, because I saw her step on one a time or two, or our drake had something to do with their deaths.  I saw him pick up one in his bill one day and shake it.  I saved that one, and since then I have kept them separated.  All of the ducklings are slated for processing in the fall, but things could change between now and then.

Between rabbits, chickens and ducklings, my freezer should be overflowing.  I couldn't be more proud!  We don't eat meat everyday, but when we do, it's with reverence, gratitude and appreciation.

As a side note, I invite you to like Bottle Tree Farm on Facebook to witness the day-to-day activities on the farm. 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Can An Onion Do Math?

Well, the I'itoi Onion can multiply.  Does that count?

Last fall I decided I wanted to try some type of multiplier or walking onion.  I did some research and finally decided on the I'itoi Multiplier and the Fleener's Top Set Walking Onions.  I was particularly attracted to the I'itoi because it is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste, which has this to say about the I'itoi:

Not only is the taste of the I'itoi Onion bold and complex, but also is its ambiguous history. The original US harvest of the wild I'Itoi Onion took place on I'Itoi Mountain, which is also known as Baboquivari Mountain. This mountain is regarded by the O'odham nation as the navel of the world – a place where the earth opened and people emerged. The name I'Itoi signifies the Elder Brother, who is the creator deity in Tohono O'odham legends; consequently the onion is a sacred reminder of the O'odham creation story. Botanical studies place the I'Itoi onion among a very old line of clumping onions brought to the US by Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century, concluding that the onion is not necessarily a US native. Regardless of the contradicting histories, the I'Itoi Onion has a special place among Sonoran Desert culinary culture.

The sharp, peppery flavor of the I'Itoi is well suited to southwestern stews and sauces, which often have robust, piquant flavors. The I'Itoi plant grows easily and prolifically in the deserts of the American southwest. Left in the ground during its summer dormancy, the onion re-sprouts toward the end of the season at which point it is harvested and replanted. The flavor of the I'Itoi Onion is garnering interest at a small, but highly visible, commercial scale throughout the arid southwest. The onion may provide one of the best examples of crop survival due to the stewardship of backyard gardeners.


Sometimes the little things are what excite me, like this I'itoi Onion bulb.

One bulb multiplies to this.

And, from the 10 bulbs I planted, this is my harvest.

I would say there are approximately 20 bulbs in each clump.  I think that's a pretty good return on my investment, don't you?  I plan to reserve the biggest and best for replanting in the fall.  I love that, if managed well, these onions will provide a sustainable way to enjoy onions year after year.

I also planted the Fleener's Top Set Walking Onions, but that's another post for another day.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Buzz, Buzz, Installing Bees

When we first got bees several years ago, we ordered and installed two colonies.  One of them left after two days!  Everybody, gone!  We didn't replace them and since then we've been flying solo with one hive. 

Well, one hive is great, but when an ice storm comes along and a fallen limb blows apart the only one you have, you decide a second hive might not be such a bad thing.  Though this scene looked bad and we questioned whether they would survive, there was still a cluster in one of the hive boxes, so I assumed the queen was still alive.  We put everything back together, fed them sugar water for a few days and watched and waited.  I checked them after a week or so, and I saw capped brood, which means babies on the way and a laying queen, pollen and the start of honey.  As of today, they are working like gangbusters bringing in pollen and nectar.

I picked up and installed my second colony today.

When you order a package of bees, this is what you get. This is 3 pounds of bees. The small rectangular box beside it is called the queen cage, and it holds the queen as well as a few of her attendants.

Here is a close-up of the queen cage.  The white end is actually candy, and this is what she and her attendants eat while trapped in her cage.

The end of the queen cage with the candy is capped with a small cork. The cork is removed to give the new bees access to the candy. They will eat their way through the candy to release the queen. Once the cork is removed, the queen box is suspended in the hive body where the bees will be installed. She is still protected by her cage, but she will be able to send out pheromones to establish herself as queen. At this point, she is not their queen, but by the time they get through the candy and release her, she should have sent out enough pheromones to establish herself as their new queen.

This is where the bees are going to be dumped. It's a hive body with 10 frames.

The blue push pin is holding the queen cage in place. The top is pried off the package of bees and you basically shake them out of the package into the hive. Most of them come out in a large mass and they proceed to work their way down into the hive body.

After you've shaken out as many bees as possible, the package is placed in front of the hive to encourage the rest of the bees to migrate into the hive body.

Finish with a nice container of sugar water to feed them since they don't have any honey or pollen collected yet.  Let's hope this one stays put!

Happy beekeeping,