Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kombucha Week 1

My kombucha starter has been in the closet for 1 week today, and it made a floating blob! As far as I know, it's supposed to develop a film across the top that eventually develops into a disc, or the SCOBY... but nothing I do ever goes by the book. This Floaty Blob has the yeast legs that are naturally occurring in kombucha, so I'm thinking it's a good start.

It has also been pretty cold here recently. After a few beautiful, sunny days, we were betrayed this weekend with snow. Naturally, Nate and I both got colds. I think the cool temperature in the house may also be contributing to the SCOBY's slow growth, and I'm OK with that. Everything worth having is worth waiting for.

Sick, cold, and dreaming of warmer days, I ordered this new ice pop mold. My mother would scold me for spending so much money on it, but I'm becoming wary of plastic. I can't wait to push the ice pop envelope with unnerving recipes!

Finally, a photo of our stalwart Willis keeping an eye out for the dog:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making Kombucha

Last year, I responded to a craigslist ad for a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, used to make kombucha), and the woman never responded to my email requesting the culture. Little did she realize that I was able to use the email she provided to figure out exactly who she was, or in other words figure out what kind of person would make an ad for a free scoby and never respond to my email. It turns out she was a local yoga teacher, and I will certainly not reveal her name here. Because I'm better than that.


I'm using GT's Organic Raw Kombucha to start my mother (the filmy/pancakey colony of bacteria floating on top of the batch of kombucha), per this recipe. Anybody who knows me knows that I am going to exhaust every other option before I order an expensive mother offline... it's just a culture of bacteria, after all, what's the big deal? I will update the results here.

Nate has been working hard on building the new duck pen by the creek. It will house 20-something ducks and ducklings and... 2 goslings? It's such a whirlwind of seed/animal orders around here, it's hard to keep track. Kubla and I enjoyed relaxing by the work site today in the warm sun, happy that spring finally sprung.

Our Dominique chicks ventured outside of the chick pen today for the first time. Boy, it took a long time for them to get up the guts to come out, I guess they got hungry.

Our two adult lady ducks, Dewea and Agatha, started laying eggs last week. I keep hearing people describe duck eggs as "gamey," and it is totally inaccurate. I think people go with that term because ducks are usually wild, and I guess people want to describe wild meats as gamey because they don't know what else to say. They're richly flavored and the yolks are a deep orange. The shells are a bit leathery, and the whites tend to want to stick to the shell for longer after you crack the egg... but I've heard that they make a fluffier baked good when used in stead of chicken eggs. I poached some this morning as toppers for some cheesy grits, and they were divine.

I did the first full hive inspection since last November today, and I am happy to report that the bees look textbook healthy. The queen is present and laying, making the ideal rainbow of brood/pollen/nectar pattern that I've read about but have never seen in my own hive before. I hope the two new nucs (bee colony nuclei, or starter hives of 5 frames) I get this spring from Wild Mountain Bees do as well!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This Day in Birds

We have been noticing bird activity more and more recently, especially since setting up a bird feeder right outside the back door. Birds are amazing and diverse, and it's incredible to hear the variety in the sounds they make. Here are a few visitors we have seen at our feeder so far:

Carolina Chickadee

This bird is so adorably small and puffy, and I love the severity of its little black hat. This bird means business at the feeder, but always keeps an eye out for any party crashers.

Wikipedia Fun Fact:
Carolina chickadees are able to lower their body temperatures to induce an intentional state of hypothermia called torpor. They do this to conserve energy during extremely cold winters. In extremely cold weather conditions they look for cavities where they can hide in and spend up to fifteen hours at a time in torpor; during this time they are awake but unresponsive; they should not be picked up and handled at this time, as the stress of being held may cause their death.

Tufted Titmouse

This guy distinguishes himself through his amazing triangle-shaped mohawk, and is always scaring off the chickadee. They seem like they always visit together, though, so they may formed a mixed-species flock.

Wikipedia Fun Fact:
Tufted Titmice nest in a hole in a tree, either a natural cavity or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. They line the nest with soft materials, sometimes plucking hair from a live animal such as a dog. If they find shed snake skin, they will try to incorporate pieces of it in their nest.

Maybe there is a titmouse nest somewhere with Kubla's hair lining!

The Pileated Woodpecker doesn't bother with our bird feeder, but it's always shocking to see it and realize that this bird is pretty big! He's no raven but he's no phoebe, either, and he spends his day smashing his face into solid wood looking for food. Check out this cool footage of the pileated woodpecker close up:

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hey buds!

I hope you all get to spend a wonderful New Year's Eve with your besties and cuties. Here is to kicking butt (again) in 2013! We make goals, not resolutions, and here are some of ours:

- goats
- love
- good food

See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chicken Coop Dreamz

Hey friends!

It has been a busy month!

I finally found time to log on and post pictures of the extremely rad and decadent chicken coop Nathan recently finished building, with lots of holiday help from his brother. Family is good for much more than judgement and racist jokes!

Anyhoozle, this chicken castle easily houses our 8 birds. They have even started laying more eggs since moving in! How about that! The neighbors have been slowing down on the road to catch a glimpse of this bad boy when they think nobody is looking, but so far nobody has crashed into the creek.

The welded wire run up front has wire buried under ground so we don't have to hurry home every night to put the ladies to roost. Foxes and panthers ain't getting in there without some work!

The inside features a cozy yet spacious area for lots of birds to roost without a fight -- or so we thought. They all seem to prefer the one branch in the corner. At least nobody is left on the floor to get pooped on in the night.

All the wood panels are from the sawmill up-mountain, grown from backyard trees. It doesn't get more local than that, and I love all the colors in the wood grain. Nathan is debating painting the outside of the coop... internet thoughts, anybody?

We have three nest boxes, easily opened from the back for egg collection. So far, the girls have used two of them. Hopefully there won't be an egg laying nag fest every morning like there was in Asheville, when the hens all wanted to use the same nest box.

I can't wait to see how this coop will look in the spring, surrounded by plants and a mob of chickens. Nathan did a great job, and I'm so happy that our animal family is comfortable out here. Happy holidays everybody!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bee Yard

After 2 weeks without a hive inspection (the shame of it!) I had a beautiful day off to go up to see the ladies. The fall colors are outstanding right now, and there is nary a cloud in the sky. On my way up to the beeyard, I discovered three of the cows straight chillin in front of the gate through which I needed to four-wheel. Longhorn made a stand and gave me the stink-eye that said "YOU SHALL NOT PASS." Knowing basically nothing about interacting with cows, I decided to yell at them with "COME ON! GET OUTTA HERE" etc. until those nerds finally moved over. It took a good 5 minutes, which doesn't seem that long until you spend 5 minutes alone yelling at cows.

The hive looks OK, but two of the insulator clasp doodads on the electric fence snapped and part of the fence was shorting out on the ground for who knows how long. This is the second kind of electric fence insulator doodad that is a huge piece of crap disappointment. How hard is it to make a good insulator clasp doodad? Come on!

The bee yard looks beautiful! I just love it. The cover was tilted this way when I got up there, which indicates that I need a weight for it so the winter winds don't blow it off.

I got pretty nervous as I went through the hive... noticing that, even though it looks like they're bringing in nectar and pollen, there are NO EGGS OR LARVAE. I thought for sure I lost my queen somehow, but then I found her in the bottom box! I was pretty gobsmacked, but also relieved. I've heard that Russian bees slow down their brood rearing before winter, but there are currently no spawn of any age in the entire hive, and I'm not sure if that's normal. I guess it's time to start asking the professionals.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Cows

It was a doozie of a move, but we made it. True to form, Willis the Cat pooped herself during the car ride over (within the first 10 minutes as always), and got a cold shower when she arrived. Nate fixed the hot water since then and everything is great.

We finally made it up to the cow pasture with the camera. There are 9 total cows, one of which is brown, one of which is a white longhorn, and three of which are calves. Two are pictured to the right, but you can barely see one since it is feeding. Apparently Black Angus #13 is a mama! Cool!

Now for assorted scenery and grazing photos: