Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Snow

It's actually November now, but the first snow was October 26, so I'm backdating this post to reflect the correct date the photo was taken.  This was our first snow of the season, and it was a doozey.  8-10" or so of the stuff fell on our place.

It was the ducks' first experience with the cold, white ground.  I attempted to video their first steps in it, but they were awfully resistant to coming out of the house.  I finally went inside and pushed each duck out the door.  After that it still took them quite a while to head over to their food or water.  Finally they ate, and several minutes later, they drank.  I took several videos, until the battery ran out.  Here's just one of them:

Their pool was filled with slush, and it took them a while to go there, too, but finally they did, after it had melted some.

The next day they were hesitant to step out, but quicker than the first day.  By the third day things were back to normal and they came right out.  Now (11/7) they have no problem walking all over the snow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin-Apple Granola

I'm always on the lookout for things that are high in fiber, low in sugar and fats.  I like granola, but most of the ones I find in the store are too full of sugar and oil, and don't contain as much fiber as I want.  I've been trying to find or create a good recipe.  I know that pumpkin and apples are good sources of fiber, so I found a pretty good recipe for pumpkin granola* and modified it to my liking.

I like to serve it with fruit and my homemade nonfat yogurt.  My most recent favorite is this with one apple, sliced and cooked with a little honey and cinnamon, 1/3 cup of the Pumpkin-Apple Granola, and 1/2 cup of nonfat yogurt.  This is YUM-MEE!

    **Printer-friendly version
5 cups rolled or flaked grains, such as oats, wheat, rye or combination
1 oz chopped dried apples
1/2 cup psyllium husk
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup (100% pure maple syrup)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.  In a large bowl, combine rolled grains, next 5 ingredients and spices.
3.  In a medium bowl, combine the honey, maple syrup, applesauce and pumpkin.
4.  Combine wet with dry ingredients until evenly mixed.  A pastry blender works well.      Mixture will be moist.
5.  Spread the mixture on a 11x17" baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
6.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir and bake another 20 minutes or until granola is crisp and dried.  Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

1/3 cup serving
119 calories, 3 gm fat, 22 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fiber, 3 gm protein

*Adapted from "Pumpkin Granola", Two Peas and Their Pod

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Greenhouse Construction Has Begun

Tim has begun to work on our greenhouse, which we will use for growing a few things in late fall/early winter, and then in late winter/early spring.  We'll also use it for hardening off seedlings before planting them outside.  It faces the south, so gets plenty of light and warmth in the afternoons.

We're making lots of plans, reading books and finding websites with greenhouse information.  I've begun starting a few seedlings in the house, which will be planted in large planters in the greenhouse.  Lettuce, spinach, endive, kale, beets, kohlrabi, some leeks and scallions are already started, and I'll be getting some seeds for a few other cold-tolerant items.  I'm also planting some of these things in the cold frame.  I expect the cold frame things to be used first, then move on to the things that will be in the greenhouse.  Then I'll start another cold frame in the spring.  I'm still starting the seedlings in the house under lights, as I have good success with that method using the soil blocks.

Meanwhile, it's getting pretty cold overnight, so I'm harvesting what I need to before it's too late.  I picked off all near-ripe tomatoes and gave them to a friend on Friday, cut off all basil near the root, washed it up last night and will dry/freeze/make pesto today.  The peppers are under the cold frame, and hopefully some of what's there will still ripen.  I will probably pick  green tomatoes, too, and do something with those.  I need to dig up potatoes one of these days, and discover how well they did.  I'm particularly anxious to see if the sweet potatoes grew!  I'm not sure our season is long enough for them, and I got them started later than I'd hoped.  The slips I started in the house took longer to sprout than expected.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welsh Harlequin Ducks at 17 Weeks

Welsh Harlequin Drake, 17 weeks old
The ducks are now 17 weeks old.  They are now looking like adults, with the most obvious difference being the Welsh Harlequin drake, with his pretty green head and black butt and curly tail.  He's quite handsome!  Whitey also now has his curly tail, and must weigh twice as much as the others.  I haven't weighed him, but he's awfully heavy in comparison to everyone else.  The girls aren't very different from the last photo I posted, but I'll post a couple with them anyway.

Duck House, with nest boxes at the left
Ducks behind house
We have completed the exterior of the duck house and painted it.  The ducks pretty much have their daily routine.  They are locked inside their house at night, let out to their paddock for breakfast and a morning swim.  The cat gets to go outside at this time, while the
ducks are locked in the paddock.        Later on, the cat comes in the house, and the ducks go out to the larger yard for foraging and lounging under the shade of trees or behind their house.  Sometime in the late afternoon, they begin to squawk and beg for dinner.  Sometimes they get to enter the garden, where they head immediately to the tomatoes, which they seem to enjoy eating.  Sometimes I'll take them a handful of cherry tomatoes and throw them out to them one at a time for a game.  The two drakes are the most eager to snap at them.  In the late evening, after dinner and around dusk, we'll lock them back in the paddock for safety, and sometime before we head to bed, we lock them back into their house for the night.  If we leave their access door open for them, they'll put themselves to bed, and we don't need to herd them in.

One of the "Silver" Welsh Harlequin females
We are anxiously awaiting the first eggs, which we expect to see sometime around 20-24 weeks of age, per various resources.  We will start increasing their daytime light artificially next week, to indicate that it's getting lighter, and therefore time to commence laying eggs.  We'll see how that goes!  We'll also be putting some fake eggs in the next boxes to show them where they should put them.  Again, we'll see how that goes.

"Golden" Welsh Harlequin female

Whitey, of course, is still the one standing out of the crowd, and is quite handsome with his curly tail.

Whitey, the White Appleyard Male

Monday, October 3, 2011

Busy Gardener

I've been way too busy to write about what I'm doing.  I've picked and preserved almost 300 lbs of tomatoes.  I've canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara, mexican sauce, salsa, bbq sauce, ketchup, tomato chutney, taco sauce, tomato butter, and I'm sure something else I've forgotten.  I've also dried several batches of the tomatoes.  There are still some tomatoes on the vine and I'd like to make more salsa.  Other than that, I'm about done.

I've picked, frozen, refrigerated or dried other things, too: corn, beans, peas, carrots, onions, garlic, basil, thyme.  I didn't get much summer squash this year.  One by one, all the plants died after a slow start to begin with.  They had trouble starting due to cold weather, then cucumber beetles.  They were finally growing ok, but the squash bugs got them one by one, then some powdery mildew on the last two survivors.  I pulled them up and trashed them, as they were also being eaten by the squash bugs that wouldn't die from the organic pesticides I tried.  I guess next year I'll be more proactive with bug control!  After working to get cucumbers to grow I had two plants, until one shriveled up and died.  The last plant produced two cucumbers before its end.

The raspberries and blackberries are giving us their first fall crop of nice berries.  I got ONE honeyberry off one of the two plants--hopefully next year they will bear more!  The older strawberry plants have been producing a fall crop after a midsummer rest, but the newer plants (planted this year from starts I bought from the nursery) haven't produced at all.

I did more beans to dry this year, and they are hanging up drying--ready to shell now, I'm sure, but I'm too busy to do that just yet.  After I see how many I get and cook them, I'll decide whether I want to do that again.  They are so cheap to buy, it may not be worth the bother, unless the quality is much better.

Soon I'll be digging up potatoes and sweet potatoes.  The butternut squash is still on the vines, although I suppose I could pick it any day.  For all the vines, I only got about five delicata squash, which are picked and curing.  The buttercup didn't make it at all, I fear they also suffered from cucumber beetles and squash bugs.  Dang!

I'm already beginning to sketch out next year's garden, deciding what to grow and where to put each thing.  I'll be planting onions and garlic soon, so needed to know where I will put them.  I've planted a few things in the area that will be a fall cold frame.

Tim is beginning to construct our greenhouse, and I've begun some seedlings in the house that will go out there for the fall.  Hopefully I can grow some salad items, kale, leeks, beets and kohlrabi for an extended period of time.  Then, I should be able to start a few things early in the greenhouse, and use it for growing seedlings and hardening things off before going outside.