Monday, February 19, 2018

Cold and freezing and hot curry

My dogs cavorting in the snow
I have a love-hate relationship with the cold.  the love part is that it's absolutely beautiful; I live in the foothills of the cascades, and there's forested hills on every side.  Snow on evergreens is really pretty; and the cold crisp air means that hard work is a little easier; and the mud turns into concrete, and walking and driving are a little easier. 

The hate part is that all of my carefully maintained automatic watering systems go out the window, and bowls and buckets become the water delivery method of choice;  I usually only have to do it a week or so a year, so it's a nuisance, but not enough of one that I'll spend the money on heated water sources.  A simple bowl or bucket that gets checked and refilled daily is hard to beat for cheap, or simplicity 

I hand-feed the nursing sows anyways; it's a formal time for me to take a look at the sow and her litter and the conditions - are they dry, do they have enough food, what's the body condition of everyone - so walking around with a hose during the rounds isn't too much trouble.  The piglets are chilly this time of year; they spend a lot of their time pressed up against moms belly and jostling for position.

When I come back in it's nice to eat something warm, and spicy, and good.  So tonight I made chicken curry. 

1 whole onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 jalapeno peppers
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons curry powder (sometimes i'll use 3)
1 cup cooked/canned chicken
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon of fresh chopped ginger
3 cloves fresh chopped garlic

Slice the onion up and toss into a 2 quart saucepan with the olive
oil, bay leaves and the peppers.  Remove the seeds and membranes
from the peppers if you don't like your curry hot. 

  Saute at medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, and
then turn the heat down and continue to cook; watch the color
of the onions; you want them a little carmelized, about the
color of light brown sugar. 

Add the tomato sauce and refill the tomato can and add that, too.
Toss in the curry powder, the chicken and the potatoes.  Cook
at low heat until the potatoes are tender, roughly 15 minutes.   Be careful here;
you can easily burn the bottom of it with higher heat.  Go slow and stir it a few
times.  Patience will be rewarded. 

When the potatoes are cooked, add the garlic and ginger, and the peas.
Stir them in, and turn off the heat.  The heat will thaw and barely cook
the peas and they'll be perfect.  Wait a couple of minutes and serve over rice
(see picture, above) 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Hand raising a family milk cow

My favorite milk cow died this last year from calving complications; she was 6 years old, and that's
young for a cow to die, and I was pretty sad about it.  I have a small herd of beef cattle that I would
run the milk cow with, and it was always handy to have her around to lead the other cattle with.  I'd walk out, put a halter on her, and then lead her wherever I wanted the herd and they'd all follow.  
My original milk cow in 2012 that I named "cow" because I suck at names

I found a little heifer that I thought might work at the auction.  She's 330lbs, about the same as the original milk cow and I just now got done getting her set up in the barn after transporting her from the auction; she looks to be 4 months old, which is the age that I wanted to start with.  

I don't want to mix her with my cows for a while for quarantine reasons, so I'll pen her away from the other stock and feed and care for her over the next few weeks to make sure that she's healthy and in
good shape.  

Part of the initial care for a new cow is to get it on a healthcare schedule that you know about; I don't know when she was last wormed, or if she was, and what if any vaccinations she's gotten, so I wormed her and gave her an 8 way vaccination and bangs vaccination.   

I use an old-school method of tracking animal vaccinations - i have a calendar on the wall that contains the vaccination status of my dogs and livestock, and I can look back at it to see where things are.  I have to be careful to put it down as soon as I do it however; because if I can't remember it and it's not on the calendar I'll do it again, and while it probably won't hurt to get two doses, it's an unneeded expense.  

This 330lb calf was $150 at the auction, which works out to be about 45 cents a pound; I mention that
because started beef calves of the same weight sell for a lot more.  a 330lb beef calf would have sold for about $400 - assuming $1.25/lb.  Beef calves are pretty popular right now and will get more popular as we get into spring.  

I'll be buying more beef calves this year if I can find some that I like the look of and that aren't too expensive.  

If you'd like to see the process I went through with the last cow, you'll find the first entry here, and that entry contains a link to all of the blog posts I made about that cow.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Closing in on 2018 - bought a(nother) new farm

It's been a while since I last wrote about the farm.  I've had an issue I cannot talk about right now occupying my free time, and plenty of stuff on the farm occupying my work time. 

I purchased another farm down the road from me this year; another 40 acres and a house and barn.  I bought it mostly for the land; I wanted more cropland that I owned - but was pleasantly surprised to find that someone about 40 years ago had planted really nice things around the house. 

So the new farm came with a mature american chestnut tree, a mature black walnut tree, the biggest fig tree I've ever seen, and a variety of other homestead-like plantings.  I spent a little bit of the fall
clearing the blackberries and overgrowth and I'm looking forward to completing that work this spring.  the black walnut tree and chestnut tree are about 75' tall, and the fig tree is 30' tall. 

I purchased the property on an as-is, where-is basis; I figured that if the house was too terrible I'd just
tear it down, but it turns out to need some work to improve it, but it's good as it is.  I did decide the
kitchen was too terrible and rehabbed it, and I've found some folks who seem happy to live there,
so I'll rent it out and see how that goes for the next year. 

The purchase price for this farm was a little under 8k/acre, which is a little more than the 6k/acre
I paid for my main farm, but still within reason.   With a little juggling I can probably develop
and sell an acre of it as a mobile home lot or a house building lot and pay off the property if I can
do it before the housing market in this area crashes - because I think that we're overvalued right now
in washington state, and I can't see it going up much from here. 

When it's low I buy, when it's high I sell, and I've been selling property this year. 

Around the farm: 

Pig business is good.  Currently have 60 sows and 5 boars.  Seeking a market for my cull sows and
hate selling them at auction, but when they have to go, they've gotta go.  holiday sales of pigs
are always pretty fun; lots of cultures have pigs as a celebration meal, so I've got groups of
happy customers processing their own pigs almost every day of december; I was offered a bit
of crisped fat and salt by a romanian family that was here yesterday; it's their favorite part of
the process-the-pig tradition, and I accepted it with a smile. 

Milking cows are all dried off this time of year;  I'm aiming my calving at march of the year so that the cows can be on the best grass of the year as they produce milk for their calves and me.  I only milk 1 cow each year, as the 5 gallons or so of milk that single cow produces is more than I or even my extended family can consume, and you can only make so much cheese :)

I've cut my chicken flock down to a rooster and a dozen or so young laying hens; keeping chickens in the winter is a bigger chore than I need right now, so I'll wait for warmer weather to bring in the roosters.  i like to raise 300 to 500 heritage roosters a year and sell them to the live chicken folks.
I'll order the chicks delivered in late feb or early march and sell them through the summer as they
reach the weights that people like to eat them at.  they grow slowly compared to cornish cross, but the demand is good, and the price is good. 

I'm going to move the majority of the cows to the new farm in the spring; which will free up the ground here for corn, and I'll plant 40 acres of corn next year.   I'll also plant some wheat, alfalfa and orchard grass next year, and try some soybeans as well.  I like the idea of growing my own feed for
my own animals, and I think I have enough land to do the job right now.  It makes economic sense because I'm my own customer for the feed, and when I buy pig feed I'm paying the equivalent of $10 a bushel for corn/soybean mix and I can raise the corn for about $3/bushel, everything included, which means I think I can cut my feed bill by at least 30% for the carbohydrates, but the protein part I'm still working on.