Boulevard Farm

Live on our urban homestead

Mid-summer Update July 28, 2011

Filed under: Chickens,Food,Rabbits — sarahtar @ 5:02 pm

 

My goodness, I’ve neglected this blog. Here’s a quick update.

People: We’re expecting another baby at the end of December. Yay us.

Rabbits: The rabbits are doing really good! They’re all grown up now, and could have been bred in June, but since we were planning a vacation for mid-July, I decided it would be best to wait until we returned. I will be breeding them in early August, so hopefully it won’t be quite as hot when they kindle in early September. That should still give the babies time enough to grow up sufficiently to allow me to butcher them in early December, before the new baby comes. If I can do a reasonable job of sexing the babies, I’ll probably keep one doe and one buck from this batch to bring the flock up to five breeding adults. Depending on how warm I’m able to keep the rabbit shed, I might breed the does again in the winter, or I might wait until it warms up a bit in March.

Hens: The hens are doing OK. The second-year hens are pissing me off, though. Black Hen still thinks she’s raising young. She isn’t. What she is doing is terrorizing the rest of the flock. White Hen isn’t laying any more. Of the other four one also isn’t laying. I’d like to say that their personalities make up for this, but they don’t. And for the first time, flies are becoming a problem around their coop. A quick search of various backyard poultry message boards shows that many people around the country are having a bad year for flies. We’re getting so darn much rain, I suspect that’s 90% of the problem. I believe I’m going to dispatch the second-year hens as soon as it’s cool enough to want to consider standing over a pot of boiling water.

Meat birds: Due to the excessive amounts of rain, the meat bird pen is STINKY. I’ve tried lime. I’ve tried wood shavings. I’ve tried Sweet PDZ, which is what I used last year. Nothing’s helping. I have a few roosters crowing their hearts out, not just in the morning, but whenever they feel the need to establish their manliness, which is often. I’m going to take care of a few of the roosters – at least the two noisy ones – when I do the hens, and then I’m planning to butcher the rest of the flock in early October before it gets cold. I’m thinking that I’m going to take a break from meat birds next year. Give the pen a chance to air out, toss some seeds back there and let them grow a bit, maybe till some DE, sand, and peat into the ground back there. Give the neighbors a break, lol.

Garden: At our place, the herbs are doing well, the garlic’s growing, and the horseradish is doing great. We lost all three fruit trees last year, as well as the grapes, but we replaced the apple and the grapes this spring and they’re looking good.

 

Chinese New Year at Boulevard Farm February 3, 2011

Filed under: Food,Our Life — sarahtar @ 12:03 pm

On Wednesday, we gathered with friends for a Chinese New Year feast. We wore red, we decorated the house, friends brought us oranges for good luck. We got new haircuts! (We did not clean the house, or wear all new clothes, both of which are also traditions. Nor did I distribute red money envelopes.)

CNY Banners CNY Banners

CNY egg roll fillings CNY egg rolls
Egg rolls.

CNY preparing the feast CNY dumplings
Making dumplings

CNY squid CNY Squid
Wally REALLY wanted squid.

CNY vegetables
Veggies for stir fry

CNY Chicken CNY Beef
Chicken and Beef stir fry.

CNY dinner table

CNY Fellowship

CNY Dessert
Dessert. The gelatin stuff was pretty good – basically plain gelatin with almond and milk, topped with fruit. (should have gone with frozen instead of canned!). The cake wasn’t bad – I think it turned out just as it should have – but it wasn’t my favorite thing to eat.

 

Foghorn was super yummy. December 10, 2010

Filed under: Chickens,Food,Self-Sufficiency — sarahtar @ 1:11 pm

So, we had one chicken that was just huge. He (as it turns out) was big as a chick, and outgrew his fellow chickens quickly. I mean, he was GIANT. Look at him there in comparison to the other birds.

Randy named him Foghorn, because he reminded him of the cartoon character.

And now look at him in the smoker:

And on our plates:

He was pretty yummy.

And it’s sad to say this, but I had never eaten meat I’ve raised myself. I mean, historically, that’s a very bizarre thing to say – only in the last generation or two have people been able to truly say, at 34, that they’ve never eaten meat they raised themselves. Fortunately, my kids won’t grow up thinking this is an unusual treat  – I hope that eating food that they’ve raised themselves is just a part of life for them.

 

Chicken stock and Turkey stock November 29, 2010

Filed under: Food — sarahtar @ 2:01 pm

When we eviscerated the chickens, we kept the necks, gizzards, livers, hearts, and fat. Last Monday, I cleaned out the gizzards (which were full of rocks and ground up corn), gave everything a good rinse, and threw them in the crock pot with the other parts, a few carrots, some celery with leafy tops, a few bay leaves, a splash of vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Giving credit where credit is due, I was merely following Abby’s directions, as I’ve only ever made chicken stock with the leftover parts of roast chicken, and I never thought it was very great.

After it had cooked for about 24 hours, I strained out the large parts and put the liquid in the fridge to separate out the fat. I had been reading a few websites that recommended removing every last bit of fat from the stock before canning, but then started reading that this wasn’t so important, after all. I ended up just dumping everything back into the stockpot to make it liquidy and hot again, then canning in the pressure canner (11 lbs for 20 minutes).

Thursday after our guests had left, I did the same thing with the turkey. Except this time, the canner wouldn’t seal correctly, so I’ve still got the stock in my fridge and I’ll can it at Abby’s house on Wednesday. After that, I’ll have three cans of really concentrated chicken stock and five cans of less concentrated turkey stock. All with minimal effort.

 

Pears and Apples September 4, 2010

Filed under: Food,Frugality — sarahtar @ 12:35 pm

We had the opportunity to score some free pears and apples last week. Wahoo!
Picking apples and pearsPicking apples and pears

Picking apples and pearsPicking apples and pears
Picking apples and pears

Picking apples and pears
Picking apples and pears

The pears ripen OFF the tree, but the apples were ready to go when we brought them home. I had one 5-gallon bucket of apples and I made 3 jars of apple juice, 1 jar of canned apples, and 4 jars of applesauce.

The pears are still ripening, but I anticipate making pear jelly, spiced pears, some pear juice, and some canned pears. I’ll be sure to take pictures, since I apparently didn’t take any of the apples!!

 

Grapes into Grape Juice, part Three. September 1, 2010

Filed under: Food,Frugality — sarahtar @ 4:37 am

So… after pressing all the juice, we started straining it through tea towels to get all the pulp and sediment out. And after about an hour, we had strained about 5 tablespoons full. That might be an exaggeration, but it was going REALLY REALLY slow. After dinner, we reasoned that most of the sediment would settle to the bottom, so we were mainly concerned about getting out the bigger chunks before letting it settle in the fridge for a day or two.

After switching to a mesh colander, we zipped through the 25 gallons pretty quickly, and emptied it into buckets, pans, and eventually, all the jars we could find and completely filled the apartment size fridge in Abby’s basement with juice.

That was Wednesday.

On Friday, Abby did most of the work to turn this into cans of juice (I was home trying to finish up the sewing and listing of new Mei Tai carriers), but I did show up to help for a few hours. We carefully spooned off any floating junk, then very carefully ladled the juice out of the buckets and into pans, along with a bit of sugar. As the juice heated on the stove, more of the sediment floated up to the top, where we just skimmed it off.

After the juice had heated to a simmer, we ladled it into clean jars. 20 minutes in a hot water bath, and it’s good to go!

grape juice

 

Grapes into Grape Juice, part two August 31, 2010

Filed under: Food,Frugality — sarahtar @ 2:49 am

So the day after we picked all the grapes, we had to turn them into juice. No problem, right? We have a cider press. We’ll just use that!

This was such a learning experience, and I say that in a really good way. We got to do a lot of trial and error and in the process, get really yummy juice.

Grapes into Grape Juice
Here’s what we thought we’d be able to do. Put the new bucket liner in the press’s bucket, put grapes in the liner, and press all the juice out, the end.

Grapes into Grape Juice
And we did get juice that way.
Then we backed up the presser, and noticed that the grapes were barely squished, but we had the press pushing down as hard as it would go. Hm.

Grapes into Grape Juice
So we decided we’d need to use the crusher part of the press after all. And, the good news is that after about a half hour, the very loud squealing from the crank stopped.

Well, a short time later, we decided that using regular fabric for the basket liner was a stupid idea. The fabric was far too tightly woven. So we swapped that out for some cheesecloth. And then we found that the press still just wasn’t pressing enough for the grapes.

Grapes into Grape Juice
So we ended up pressing them with our hands. We kind of wished we’d just set up a trough and gone at it with our feet.

3:51 Grapes into Grape Juice Grapes into Grape Juice

Grapes into Grape Juice
Doesn’t the leftover pulp look REALLY YUMMY? Ick. We weren’t prepared for how quickly the grapes and juice would darken with oxidation.

This is what juicing grapes outside looks like with four kids:
Grapes into Grape Juice

We ended up with 25 gallons of unstrained juice.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode when we find out if the Silver Haired Man will triumph over our hero. No, wait. Kepe an eye out for the exciting conclusion, where we end up with neatly labeled jars of yummy grape juice.