Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Goose eggs! A seasonal delicacy!

In the Goose Yard

A couple of weeks ago, I could tell that Golly, the gander (male) goose, was starting to hiss a little more than "normal".  Then, I noticed on a homesteading FB page that someone said they had goose eggs for sale!  

I dug out our goose nest boxes.  I had Logan make these about 3 years ago!  Finally time to put them to use!  I filled them with straw and put them into the run.  I was not sure if I should put them in the run or in their little goose coop.  BUT, we don't want to have any baby geese this year.  I had read that you should not let them sit on the eggs the first year.  Just like other poultry, they lay pullet (smaller) eggs when they first begin to lay.  You don't want to have these smaller eggs develop chicks because the goslings will then me smaller and less likely to thrive.  Therefore, we want to collect and eat all the goose eggs this year and I thought it would be easier to collect the eggs with the nest boxes in the run area.  I tucked them in under an apple tree.

After putting the nest boxes out, I filled them with straw.  Nothing seemed to happen at first and then I noticed that the ladies had built up the sides and made a nice little nest inside the nest box.  There are no bottoms to the nest boxes so they rest on the ground which should be more forgiving once a heavy goose is sitting on eggs.  I kept checking and then finally, I saw a small bit of white in one of the boxes!  Sure enough…it was a goose egg!  

The first goose egg!

Now, letting the geese out in the morning has been pretty interesting lately because they try to come right at me!  I make sure to have all the feed and water ready and then I lower the ramp and run to get over the fence.  They really come out honking!  

Surprisingly, they go to bed pretty well but once they get up in the coop, you better get that ramp back up quickly because Golly turns around and comes charging!  One night when I was putting them to bed, I noticed a big mound of straw in the coop.  It seems that they have made a nest in their coop too!  I had to leave for a short trip so the next day, Henry distracted the geese while Joshua went into the coop and found another egg!

So…what can you do with a goose egg?  You eat it!  One goose egg is the same as 3 chicken eggs or 2 duck eggs! I have read that they taste more “eggy” and am can be baked or cooked the same as chicken/duck eggs.  Goose eggs are richer, fattier and heavier than chicken eggs and will have nice dark yellow yolks.  Geese are herbivores so they only eat plants.  Also, the yolk to white ratio is 1:1 which means that there is lots of yolk!  Goose eggs really shine in custards or homemade egg noodles!

Lastly, the shell is much thicker and you are really going to have to whack it to crack it!  If you are careful enough to blow the contacts out, goose eggs are great for crafting!

Most geese just lay in the spring (I think there is one breed that also lays in the fall) and will lay between 20-40 eggs depending on the breed.  Geese lay white eggs and they hide them by putting straw on top of them. 

I am going to make a coconut custard pie with one of the goose eggs today!
Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Starting sweet potato slips

 In the Basement

It's time to start sweet potato slips!  I usually start them the end of February because it takes a while for them to grow.  Also, we have such a short growing season that you want a nice good sized plant to put out in the garden so it can get growing quickly.  

To start, you need a sweet potato.  I go to the Moscow Food Co-op to get my sweet potatoes.  I got 3 different kinds this year...garnet, purple and jewel.  I have tried a white flesh sweet potato the past couple of years but have not had much luck in getting it to sprout/grow.  Last year, I only got purple sweet potatoes to sprout so we had some purple sweet potatoes!  
First you have to get the sweet potato to sprout.  The idea is pretty simple, you cut the sweet potato in half and then stick toothpicks in it and hang in a jar of water.  Kind of like a second grade science experiment.  Then, you wait..

After a couple weeks, you will start to see little sprouts growing out of the sweet potato.  See the purple sweet potatoes on the right in this pic.  This is from last year....
Once the sprouts get about 6 inches long, you actually just twist them off at the base and put them into a different jar of water.  I usually put some waxed paper over the top of the jar, then poke a hole in the waxed paper, and stick the spout through so the bottom is in the water and the leaves are above the waxed paper.  Sorry, I don't have a pic of this.
Then, you wait a couple of weeks and the sprouts will start to grow their own roots.  When they have a good amount of roots on them, I take them out of the water jar and plant them in soil.  I keep them in the house until it gets warm enough to put them outside.  At the beginning of May, if the weather is nice, I start to put them outside to harden off.  I usually have to bring them back inside at night.  You do NOT want to leave them out if it is going to be close to freezing at night.  They will die!   
Plant them outside when the danger of frost has passed.  This is the end of May for Moscow, Idaho area.
They grew nicely out back in the garden but the tubers were really small!
I had planted some in front of our house where there is more sun and they did much better but the ground was really hard and I couldn't dig some of them out really well.  This is what I got...
To store sweet potatoes long term, you need to cure them and this involves high humidity and high heat for a couple of weeks.  We do not have these conditions here in the fall.  Therefore, I pretty much made mashed sweet potatoes and froze it into individual bags so that we could just take one of the bags out for special occasions.  Here I took the mashed sweet potatoes and added an egg and then piped them out into "flower" shapes and baked them for Valentine's dinner.  
Henry made me some raised beds to grow the sweet potatoes in this year in the space that gets the most sun and heat.  They are only 8 inches tall but I think this will help a lot for growing sweet potatoes.  Here is Allen packing down the compost so I can add more on top later...
That's it!  Really, it is not too difficult and there is more than one way to make your own sweet potato sprouts but I find this way to be pretty easy.  It's not too late to start your own sprouts!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Who says it doesn't pay to compost...a "lost and found" story...

 In the Compost Bin...

A couple of weeks ago, we had some fairly nice weather for the end of January.  I decided to take advantage and start filling up the raised beds in the garden.  Over the seasons, the compost in the beds settles and so you need to add more to the top of the bed so it is full to the top for the new plants and roots to grow this spring.  Now, I have to be honest, I never really even got around to putting the garden to bed last fall.  It was such a warm fall and all the plants were doing good.  Then, it finally got cold, really cold and I never got out to pull things up.  Therefore, I was pulling out old plants and then filling up the raised bed with chicken compost.  I dumped out one of the buckets and look what I found...
Okay...the compost that I was using was made from the chicken feathers and guts from chicken processing day in 2021!  That summer, my friend was helping with the eviscerating in the barn.  Eviscerating is a fancy word that means to pull the guts out of the chickens.  She was wearing her hubbies ring and it was a little loose on her finger.  We heard a "tink" and she knew immediately that the ring had slipped off her finger!  We thought it had hit the floor but there are huge cracks in the floorboards of the barn and rabbits have made tunnels under there and so that if it fell into one of the cracks it could be lost forever...
BUT as it turns out, the "tink" we heard was the ring falling into the gut bucket!  All the guts, feathers, and heads go into the pallet compost bin.  I took 4 pallets and tied them together to make a square.  This helps to keep the dogs from foraging in the scraps.  Also, when a chicken/duck dies, I "bury" them in this bin.  You can see it on the left in this pic...
The next summer, 2022, I took one pallet off and shoveled all the 2021 "stuff" that was inside the bin to the right of the bin (where the shovel is located in the pic above).  I had to move the old stuff out to make room for processing day 2022 stuff to go into the bin.  Then, in January 2023, I started shoveling the compost from 2021 to use in the garden.  

The ring went from the gut bucket...
to the compost bin...
to the pile beside the compost bin...
to the garden...
and then back to my friend!  

I keep thinking about all the times that this ring could have gotten lost in all that shuffle or even if it would have been on the bottom of the compost that came out of the bucket and I would have never even seen it!  What a blessing to find this ring and give it back to my friend!

My friends have been married for 23 years and are SO happy to have their original ring and symbol of their love back where it belongs!  Give your loved ones a hug!  Happy (early) Valentine's Day!

Have an eggcellent day!
Go Chiefs!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Healing Herbal Salves

 In the Herb Garden…last summer…

Each summer, Mary comes to help collect and dry herbs and flowers from our garden.  We feed some of these to the chickens and ducks in the winter.  I have also been experimenting with making herbal salves.  I did make a blog post about how I make the salves last March and you can read post by clicking on the title: Using Beeswax and Herbal Salves.
As a quick review, Mary picks and dries the herb/flower.  Then, I take the dried herb and put it in a jar with a carrier oil.  I was using olive oil but now I am switching to avocado oil.  This may change again...we will see.  Here is a jar of yarrow flowers and leaves in oil.  
I let it sit for 6 weeks and then strain out the leaves and flowers and then you have an "infused oil".  This is where the magic lives!  You add some beeswax to "thicken" the oil into a salve.  I don't add any essential oils to the salves because I want the natural herbal properties of the plant to shine.  Beeswax is also great for your skin because it is a wax and forms a protective barrier when applied to skin.  This protective barrier not only locks in moisture, but it also helps to keep out environmental assaults like wind and dry air.
Okay, so today I am just going to list out some of the salves I have made this past winter.  I am not sure I will continue all of them.  I am just experimenting to see what works and what does not.  Unfortunately, everyone is different so you have to try different salves to see what works for you.  For example, I had a terrible pain in my shoulder and I would put comfrey salve on my shoulder every morning for like 2 weeks and it was still hurting.  Then, one day, I decided to try some of the Calendula salve and the pain went away that day!  Another example is that I made a pine mint headache salve.  I tried it when I had a headache but nada.  One morning my stomach was hurting.  It felt kind of like I was bloated and it just really hurt.  I was drinking some peppermint tea because I had read that it can be soothing for you stomach.  I saw the pine mint headache salve on my nightstand and figured, what the heck, I spread it all over my stomach and the pain went away almost immediately.  I had been dealing with the pain for hours!  

Here are some of the salves I have made:

I think this one is my favorite!  Calendula works its magic by promoting cell repair and growth, coupled with natural antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is gentle in its work...you don’t need to worry about “overdoing it” with calendula.  Topically, calendula salve can ease, heal, or otherwise treat a huge array of skin conditions. According to the Chestnut School of Herbs, this includes: rashes, sunburn, swelling, eczema, acne, stings, wounds, burns, scrapes, chicken pox, and cold sores.  As I mentioned above, calendula works great for my muscle pain!
This is a new one that I just made this past week so I have not had time to really try it yet.  I did make some chap stick with echinacea infused oil because I had read that it is so good for dry skin!  Salve made with dried echinacea flowers and leaves is good for treating wounds, stings and venomous bites.  It helps calm, soothe and heal redness, cuts, rashes, bug bites, itches and scratches. 
Comfrey has been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and speed skin healing.  It is so good at skin healing that you should NEVER use comfrey on an open wound!  You can use any other salve on an open wound but not comfrey!  It contains allantoin, a substance believed to promote healing by stimulating the growth of new cells.  Herbalists commonly recommend comfrey salves for sprains, strains, muscle pain, arthritis, bruises, and fractures.  
Chamomile has been used for wound healing, including ulcers and sores, easing skin conditions like eczema or rashes and anti-inflammation and pain relief for conditions like back pain, neuralgia, or arthritis.  Because chamomile is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and nutrients, it’s really good at soothing and relieving skin irritation. 

Yarrow is know for it's blood coagulating properties when applied to the skin to stop bleeding.  Use it to treat minor topical injuries, including cuts, scrapes, burns, and rashes.  Yarrow has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-itching, anti-bacterial, and wound healing properties to reduce signs of skin aging, ease inflammation and increase skin moisture.

Pine Mint
Mint helps to calm down inflammation, and pine is said to have pain-relieving properties so putting these two powerhouses together makes for an effective salve.  Use for headaches or any other muscle pain.  As I mentioned above, my stomach was hurting one day and I grabbed this salve and spread it on and the pain went away almost immediately! 
Along with its calming and anti-inflammatory compounds, catnip has antiseptic properties that make it useful for treating skin infections and speeding the healing of minor wounds and cuts and other skin problems.
Lemon Verbena
Heals dry or cracked skin and cuticles after a long day of gardening.  Lemon verbena has proven to be effective in healing dry elbows, knees, heels, hands and cuticles.  Just a heads up...although the plant smells very "lemony", that does not carry through to the salve so don't expect it to smell like lemon.
Future salves I would like to make:

Lavender salve moisturizes skin, soothes irritation, burns and itching, and can even help heal acne, scrapes, and eczema and soften the appearance of scars.  It can be used after shaving, to prevent or treat razor burn swelling, redness, and irritation.  Lavender is generally safe for kids and babies, making homemade lavender salve perfect for things like diaper rash or cradle cap.  
Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm cools and soothes irritated or inflamed skin. It can be used on cuts, scrapes, wounds, and  insect bites.  Lemon balms contains some anti-viral properties and is a natural way to help heal herpes, cold sores, shingles, and other viral skin conditions.
Rosehip oil is extremely high in essential fatty acids and is a great agent in the fight against dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin. It works wonders on scars and is used for treating wrinkles and premature aging and age spots.
So, that is that...I like the idea of making the salves in the winter because they will be shelf stable and I can take them to the Farmer's Market in the spring when I don't have flowers yet to sell!  I guess I should show you a pic of the finished product...

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Cost of eggs? Going up? Eggs are still a great buy!

 In the Coop

In case you have not seen the news lately or been to the grocery store, the price of eggs has gone up almost 60% the past year!  I am not watching TV right now and we don't buy eggs at the grocery store so I was a little bit out of the loop on all this.  Luckily, a friend (thanks Don!) sent me an article about the current situation.  It seems that there are a couple of things going on.  One is that the cost of materials (feed, egg cartons, etc...) has gone up.  We just bought egg cartons for Mark's business and the price was definitely higher from the previous year.  
The second reason is the Avian bird flu outbreak is still happening and many egg laying chickens are succumbing to that disease.  Avian bird flu is carried by waterfowl like wild ducks and geese.  We have both wild ducks and wild geese that live right by our home in the lagoon of the University of Idaho dairy!  Luckily, they don't "stop" by our place but they definitely fly over a lot.  You can actually hear the rushing of the wind through the ducks wings as they fly overhead.  It makes a squeaking sound.  The wild geese are usually honking so you hear that and know they are flying over....but I digress...  Unfortunately, the bird flu is highly contagious and super lethal.  This has been the deadliest outbreak in U.S. history!  We are keeping our fingers crossed that is does not visit our farm...
Let me put in a plug for buying eggs from a local farmer or food cooperative (co-op) that carries locally laid eggs.  I know that the price of eggs at our local co-op have not gone up and Mark has not increased his egg prices for a couple of years.  The eggs you purchase at your co-op or directly from a farmer will probably cost more than the eggs at your local grocery store.  BUT you are getting a much healthier egg and, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  What you want to look for are Pasture Raised Eggs!  These are the kind that Mark has!  If you need help finding a local farmer, use a website like Local Hen to find a farm near you!  

Here is a nice graphic showing the difference between eggs...it might be hard to read so here is the link to the article: A Guide to Cage Free vs. Free Range vs. Pasture Raised Eggs  Cage free sounds great but it is truly not all that it is cracked up to be...pun intended...even free range just says that they have to have "access" to the outdoors but they don't have to go out there...

I love this pic showing the difference between Cage Free and Pastured:
Here is a pic of Mark's girls that I took yesterday...now you have to realize that it is the middle of winter so there is no "green grass" but they still love coming out on "pasture" and look for worms and scratch around and do chicken things...
Here is a great video put out by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association talking about advantages of pastured eggs and meat:
We don't move the coop as is shown in the video but we do move portable paddocks around the coop so that they have access to fresh grass (when the grass is growing!)  Here is one of my favorite pics of the chickens out on pasture last spring...
Pastured eggs are more healthy than conventionally raised eggs...taken from Mother Earth News...
Need a reason to love eggs!  They are incredibly nutrient dense containing 13 essential vitamins and minerals.  They have lots of  B vitamins like B2, B5, B12 which are sometimes hard to get.  Chickens that go "outside" produce eggs that are high in Vitamin D.  They also contain zinc, choline, lutein, and iron, 6g of protein and all nine essential amino acids, making them a “complete” source of protein. All this for around 70 calories!  

Eggs provide long lasting energy!  I never need a snack in the morning when I start my day with a couple of scrambled eggs, avocado and salsa (my favorite breakfast!).  Eggs are sugar free!

They are versatile and can be made sweet or savory...scrambled or boiled...fried or over easy...creped or omeletted...caked or cookied...the possibilities are limitless!  So many reasons to LOVE pastured eggs!
Have an eggcellent day

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 In Review...Looking back and looking forward...

 Looking back...

I usually don't do a "year in review" but it just seemed like the thing to do this year.  Many years I usually post about the Christmas gifts that I made but I just did not have time for making Christmas gifts this past year...too busy with other projects (see below)!  We finally got Mark's egg business to full capacity!  It only took 3 years!  This review is going to be mostly about Mark's egg business but I do want to mention that Joshua also had a big year and I will put some of his accomplishments at the end.

Side note:  Someone in the community contacted me this past week and wanted to meet and talk about self employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  They have a daughter with developmental delays and learned of Mark's business at the Farmer's Market last summer.  What a blessing!  Wouldn't it be great if more people with disabilities are working in the community!
In late 2021, Mark got 75 Novagen chicks...the new coop was "mostly" finished so these girls went into the new coop in January!  The coop is actually 2 coops that are joined by a storage area in the middle.  These young girls went into the east coop...
Here is a pic of the run area that is on the east side of the east coop...
We got a portable grain bin to buy bulk feed in January and then in September, we were invited to get grain from a local feed mill!  This will really help to keep the cost of feed manageable!
In the spring, the older chickens that were in the barn were moved into the west side of the new chicken coop...
There is a run on each side of the coop and then moveable paddocks that come off the run.  Here is a pic of Mark standing in front of one of the white fenced paddocks.  The paddocks are where the girls have access to good, green grass!
Here is another pic of the chickens in the paddock!
The older chickens were getting "old"...so we decided to try a new breed of chicken to replace some of the older ladies.  This breed is called ColorPack and they lay blue and green eggs!  
We also decided to go a different direction with the future duck production.  We got a pair of Welsh Harlequin ducks from a local farmer...white duck is the duck/female and the colorful guy is the drake...I call him Moby Duck...  
We realized that one duck was probably not going to be enough so we ordered 5 Welsh Harlequin ducklings.  One didn't make it but the other 4 grew up and are in with the flock now.  They are REALLY beautiful ducks!
Back to the older chickens...we held a class on the farm to teach 5 other individuals how to process chickens and we processed them as stew hens.  We are grateful for their egg laying these past 3 years...
Did a fun experiment with letting the girls make a jack-o-lantern this fall... the east coop REALLY loved the pumpkin!  I was able to pull the pumpkin out of the paddock and grab this pic...I put it back into the paddock and when I came back in a couple hours, the entire pumpkin was gone and only the stump was left!  It took the west coop DAYS to work on their pumpkin and I eventually threw it into the east coop...

Our oldest dog, Benjamin, had to be put down due to his age so we got a new dog.  His name is Allen and he just turned one year old in October so we hope to have him around for a while...
With 2 coops full of chickens now (FINALLY), Mark is getting LOTS of eggs this winter and we have plenty of eggs for all the delivery customers for the first time!
Just another side note to say that Denise started growing some ever lasting flowers this year to sell at the Farmers Market...
Denise also added some flavored apple cider vinegar to her offerings...here we have some rose petal, chive and lemon vinegars brewing...
Joshua had a big year...first he was confirmed into the Catholic church...
Shortly after that he turned 18 years old in May...
Then, he graduated from Paradise Creek Regional High School...
...and started a job in the deli at WinCo!

Looking forward...

2022 was SO busy that we are hoping to just have a nice, quiet 2023!  A couple of projects for 2023 include breeding the Welsh Harlequin ducks and harvesting some drakes which we have never done.  There is also some work that needs to be done on the coops...believe it or not...the contractor did not actually finish the job (shocking, I know)...I want to put some rocks around the perimeter of the run to keep the girls from digging their way out.  Also, at some point, probably not this year, we want to put up some type of structure over the runs to allow for shade in the summer and to keep some of the snow off that area in the winter.  

One last piece of equipment we need is an egg washer...these are crazy expensive (several thousand dollars!) but it will allow Mark to wash the eggs and be more involved in the business (currently, I wash all the eggs).  Hopefully, we will be purchasing this equipment in fall 2023...oh yeah...and Denise got 3 geese!  We are looking forward to some goose eggs this spring!  .  
Happy New Year from the Wetzel family!
No wonder I am so tired all the time and can't think straight!  Have an eggcellent day!