Thursday, October 25, 2018

Wheat is trying to kill me

I recently found out I have Celiac Disease.   It's an autoimmune disease where if you body ingests even a microscopic little bit of gluten (wheat), your body starts destroying the little villi in your small intestine that get the nutrients out of the food you eat.  It's incurable, and the only remedy is eating a 100% gluten free diet for the rest of my life.   Bit of a game changer, and it's been a HUGE learning curve with finding out just how tiny of an amount of gluten can make me super sick and damage my body. 


I've had to gut my kitchen-- anything with a porous surface (think cutting boards, tupperware, and non-stick pans) had to go, not to mention any and all foods that contained gluten.  I've had to research all of my medicines and vitamins to ensure that they not only don't contain gluten themselves, but also aren't made on equipment that makes OTHER medicines that use wheat as a filler. 

It's been a bit exhausting, honestly.  One area that made me extra sad was having to look through our homestead pantry and decide what to keep or throw away.  We've built up a bit of a stockpile over the years in case of emergency, but it has a lot of pastas, flour, and whole wheat included in it.  James and I talked it over, and decided that we would keep the containers of pasta, and if the need arose, could designate one pot for cooking just gluten foods.  However, I had a five gallon bucket full of hard white wheat that can't be used, and needed to find a new home. 

Thank Pinterest, I found some methods of sprouting your own grains to feed to chickens!  It's super easy, and as long as I wash my hands super thoroughly after any contact, so far it's been fine and has not 'glutened' me!!  It seems a little strange that I'm intentionally growing wheat, since it has such devastating affects on my body, but by sprouting it, it gives the chickens a lot more nutritive bang for the buck instead of just throwing them the wheat.

It's pretty damn easy, to be honest, and the chickens have gone MAD over this stuff. 

First, you start with soaking the wheat overnight.  This bucket dates back to 2016, so my first time trying this I was a little doubtful if it would even work.  Here I've got my little station set up-- wheat soaking in a bowl, and a few trays ready to spread the seeds out onto. 


I spread them about 1/3" thick in my little pans, and sat back to see if they'd do anything.


The next day, I could see some teeeeeeeny little sprouts on the end of the seeds!!!  Just a little whitish nub sticking out from the end.  But they sprouted!!



The following day, the little nubs had grown a bit longer, and you could start identifying some tiny little root hairs.


On day three we started to see some nice green color popping up, and you could see a definite difference between the green top growth and the roots stretching downwards. 


Days 4-8 were exciting to watch as the wheat started to look like a lush carpet.  


It was funny to watch the whole mat sort of rise up out of the tray, as the roots grew and pushed it upwards.  Here's a peek at the side when I folded back the flexible tray. (I used an old paint tray liner for this first batch!)  


And here is my little mini-lawn  on day 8, right before we threw it to the hungry hungry chickens.  Not too bad for a 2 year old wheat kernels and a little water and sunlight!  Just a little chunk of turf!


I've looked around and seen some pretty elaborate fodder growing systems, but doing a simple pan or three at a time has sufficed for us for now.  I'm really happy I can use the wheat in a productive way, especially where the chickens can get some free nutrition! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A nicely Rounded meal

Time had finally come for us to butcher the first goats!  Of course I was far too involved in the actual process to take ANY photos whatsoever, so I'll have to amend that and write a follow up posting on that whole process next time we get to it.

We got a LOT of help from a friend, who dreams of having his own farm someday and has watched more You Tube videos on butchering techniques than you can shake a stick at. 

We found out that goats are shaped kinda funny, at least compared to the beef and pig products we're all so used to seeing.  We did a fairly decent job of hacking the goat meat into reasonable cuts of meat, but had a few parts that we weren't quite sure how to cook up.

The rib sections were one of those.  They're quite long, with hardly any little meat on them.  Not wanting to waste any of our hard hard work from butchering, however, I set out to give them a try. 



James fixed himself a drink, which lately has looked like this: 


The condensation was bothering him, and since no one makes coozies for quart sized Ball jars, he came up with his own solution:  a washcloth to mop up the moisture, and a set of used earplugs to hold the washcloth in place.   That's my boy.

I did a rack of pork ribs (right side) alongside the goat ribs, partly for comparison sake, but also so we would have more than two bits of meat for dinner.  I peeled the membranes off both types of racks, and seasoned with some sweet bbq rub.  Onto the smoker for a few hours!


 The ribs turned out remarkably well-- great flavor, despite there only being a tiny bit to chew on.


I was in hog heaven (goat heaven?) with these though-- I get a freakish amount of enjoyment over getting to gnaw on meat bones of all sorts, so this was right up my alley.   (In testament to James's abundantly accepting attitude, he didn't blink an eye during one of our early dates when I asked if I could have the chicken wing bones that he'd left COPIOUS amounts of meat on.  He just smiled and watched me go all starving-caveman on them.  Bless.)  




 Since I'm not NEARLY as clever as James in the fancy drink department, I finished off my meal with a frothy fresh glass of, what else, goat milk. 


Cheers!!! 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Ding Dong Gong

One of James and my favorite past times during good weather is wandering around the area looking for garage sales.  We've found some remarkably fun people and places during our explorations, not to mention some fun goodies that have helped out quite a lot around the farm.

James got to play with a lot of guns during his time in the military, and while he's never been into hunting whatsoever, he sure as hell likes "plinking" around with his current arsenal.  Living in the county and having a large open space behind our property allows him to plink to his little heart's content, but he had wanted to make a more secure shooting range as well for quite some time.

As luck would have it, we were out in my Honda, wantonly wandering about looking for garage sales, and happened upon one in the middle of nowhere.   The little old lady was selling a number of old oxy-acetylene tanks for $10 apiece, and James practically broke my purse strap trying to shove money into the lady's hands.

As James loaded the tanks into the back of the car, she told us that she used to make them into high-end gongs that she'd sell at a certain Tillamook queso factory for around $400+, after cleaning them up and coating them in brightly colored ceramics.  Naturally, James jumped right in and told her his devious plans for turning them into shooting targets, which led to a bit of an awkward moment where she (somewhat) graciously tried to un-sell them to us so she could find a better home for them.

I tell you folks, mild mannered James has never shut down a conversation so quickly, nor peeled out of someone's driveway with that kind of fervor.


Lest she somehow track us down and wrest the tanks out of his hands,  James got right to work cutting into the tanks, slicing them off at various lengths, giggling occasionally at how lucky he'd been to get these for a gong song.  When you can hear a full grown man giggling over the sound of a cutting torch, you know that's $%&* is legit. 


Naturally, to get the most out of these magical musical metals, they needed to be suspended somehow.  A few hours and T-posts later, and we've got what looks like a deranged child's swing-set!



As per usual, the innocent bystander (me) got recruited into lugging this monstrosity down to the shooting bunk that James had dug recently when he had his hands on an excavator.  (How VERY serendipitous!)


Nothing like making your afternoon plinking session into a musical moment!   A veritable orchestra, I tell you!  (Snort!)





Saturday, June 17, 2017

Back to the Farm

Just shy of two full years after our honeymoon, I've finally finished up all of my posts about the trip!!  My delusions of keeping up to date on the farming aspect of this blog have obviously died a slow and painful death, but I figure if I can strangle out a few here and there, I can at least sleep at night.

Much as we enjoyed travelling, home really is where our hearts are.  I mean, puppy loves, hammocks, and all the chicken #$(&%  you can handle, what more could a girl ask for?


We returned home, deeply appreciative to be in our own cozy environment, and decided to dive into a few projects that we'd put off until after our return.   The back sun room doors had seen better days, so we purchased a new set of french doors and thought we'd spend an afternoon swapping them out for our dearest little puppers.   Estimated project time was "2-3 hours, max!"  per my beloved, so we chose a nice sunny September afternoon to begin.


Life, as per usual, had other plans.  Dry rot, termites, and poor initial construction turned our afternoon project into a 2 month long demolition and full rebuild of the south corner of the house.


We ended up cutting out about 2 feet of flooring, pulling the wall down to the studs, and rebuilding the whole thing.  Living in Oregon, of course, it rained about 90% of the time we had free to work on it, so our house was protected from weather and burglars by a super sturdy blue tarp for a full month and a half.


Living the posh life, folks.   This set up was good enough for James and I for quite some time, but the little dogs were having trouble making the jump, so we had to build them a fancy pants ramp so they could get outside to potty.   Snoots.

Thankfully the thought of bad guys coming and burglarizing the house didn't keep me up at night, but part way into the demo, I came across a few of these little gems, which did guarantee that I will never sleep soundly again in this house.


Always on the outlook for a silver lining, we decide this rebuild would afford us the opportunity to build in a permanent dog door, so we scootched the french doors down a bit, and framed out a new area for the dog flap.  (We did eventually put in a floor for them as well, btw.)


Finally starting to come together!!!  We had purchased a load of treated lumber the previous spring, which came in VERY handy while putting this whole business back together.


(For the record, I DO actually help on these projects--  James just gets to pose pretty for the photo ops.)


Construction genius, I tell you.



At Long Last, London!!!

I'm just going to put it out there:  I really, really, REALLY do not like crowds of people. Hell, I have a hard enough time with the social expectations of dealing with individual people half the time, but get more than 2-3 folks together in close quarters, and I start looking for the door and a plausible excuse to pull the rip cord and BAIL.

My poor little introverted heart was already pretty taxed from the niceties required of staying at bed & breakfasts and having to say hello and chit chat with strangers every day, so knowing I was about to get into highly crowded situations on the Tube, streets, and attractions was making my eyeballs sweat.

Never fear, James the Viking is here!!  Turns out, one of the magnificent things about having a gigantic husband is that he makes an absolutely cracking personal-space bubble!  It also doesn't hurt that he's fantastic about checking in with me frequently and seeing if I need to step out of a crowd before I reach my "OMG the next person that elbows me in the boob is going to get throat punched" point of no return.

We found a good respite for us was taking a step aside and taking a few moments to mock the modern architecture around us.

This one reminded him of the Magic Bullet blender you used to see on midnight QVC type shows, OR possibly behind the counter at an adult shop...


And this pointy creature that we couldn't agree on whether it was finished or not... We did agree that it was just a subtle way to put the most narrow minded folks up top while thinking they were being honored with the highest offices.


We thought this one let the sunset highlight its drunken curves rather well!



We did, of course, do a good bit of the touristy stuff, including the Tower of London.


We survived the crowds, and even managed to have a good bit of fun exploring around some different areas that I've managed to miss on my previous trips there.  The Tower boasts new art exhibits over time, and I very much wish we could have seen the "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" exhibit of the ceramic poppies flooding the moat, but we did get to see a short film about the installation while we were there.

During our trip there was a series of animal sculptures made out of chicken wire (which, as we all know, is the most lethal and obnoxious material known to man) as a nod to the history of housing exotic animals.



The displays were quite lovely in their own right, but anyone who has come within 20 feet of working with chicken wire will especially appreciate the blood loss that inevitably happened while creating these creatures.


I felt this one adequately captured my face the last time we worked with the foul (fowl, har har) stuff.



The Beefeater tour guides and a number of other employees are apparently housed around the exterior walls of the Tower, which sounds like an extra level of Hell as far as privacy goes, but I suppose they get paid handsomely to put up with such things.  Myself, I think I'd let this iron guard take me out of my misery.


While we were doddling around the perimeter of the Tower to take a break from the bigger crowds, we stumbled upon a little station discussing the archers guarding the exterior walls, which had a replica of one of their helmets.   I probably should be more embarrassed about this being my absolute favorite photo of myself from the entire trip, but here we are. 


My total glee at this totally unbecoming picture must have sparked something in James's heart, and he decided he wanted to be the photographer for the remainder of our Tower journey.  Unfortunately, bless his heart, focusing the camera somehow entirely escaped him, so the majority of the tour turned out to be a blurry bloody mess.   We can all thank our stars that at least me looking like a goober in the metal hat survived on film.  James will be pleased to know that if I'm ever forced back into the world of online dating, this will absolutely be my profile picture.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Baaaath.

James and I did almost the exact opposite loop that mama and I did when she I went to the UK a few years ago.  She and I started in Bath (pronounced Baaaaath), went up and about and around, and did a loop to land back in London.   James and I ended our trip with Bath and London.

Might I just take this moment to reiterate one should NEVER ever ever ever ever pick up a rental car nor drop off a rental car in either Edinburgh nor London.  I was half an idiot on each trip-- mum and I picked up our car in Bath (yay!!) and dropped it in London (poor, poor life choice).   James and I got the car in Edinburgh (for which my blood pressure paid dearly), and dropped the car in the much more serene Bath.


So Bath, to me, holds a particular dear spot in my heart from this trip, as it signified the first time I fully unclenched my.... um... fists since our first spin in Edinburgh.  With no more maps to follow and hairpin turns to make, I was able to enjoy the scenery at a much more leisurely pace.  As my little snail friend here will attest to.


Bath is a beautiful town, full of incredible architecture, such as the Royal Cresent above.  I vaguely remember seeing some of these for rent when mom and I visited, and my brain must have shut down from sticker shock, because I can't remember even a ball park of what they were asking for rent $.


With lots of happy sighing about being on foot instead of behind the wheel, we took a couple of lovely strolls around town to take in the sights before checking out the Roman Baths for which the town was named. 


This is a shot of "The Circus" in Bath, which is mostly residential housing.  You can't tell very well from this picture, but there's a whole level of housing below street level-- you can look down over the railing right into peoples darling little kitchens.  Which we tried to keep to a minimum, since we didn't want to be TOTALLY creepy, but... you know, seeing honest to goodness Brits having real TEA in their quaint little kitchens is almost too tempting for words!! 


The audio tour around the Roman Baths is absolutely worthwhile to rent, although I'll never stop feeling silly for holding what looks like a clunky TV remote to the side of my head.  SO much history in these walls, and it was a little overwhelming at times to realize just how OLD these stones are.  


There is a tea room upstairs that serves glasses of the spring water, which purport to have healing properties of all sorts.  It must be mighty powerful; even just the smell of it was enough to cure me of all thoughts of food for the remainder of the day.  



One of the ingenious bits that I loved were the heated floors.  The floors were supported on clay tile pillars, and fires would be lit in between to heat the floors and the room.  Of course you wouldn't want to be the slave in charge of keeping those fires stoked, but for the folks upstairs, that would be awfully cozy! 


Our last night in Bath was also the eve of my 34th birthday, and our last night before our last stop of London. We grabbed a couple of beers and lugged our bags up the rickety old stairs to our room. Despite my hatred of all things related to automobile travel at this point, I will say, it makes it MUCH easier to haul your gear around when you can just toss it in the boot.  The unfortunate side effect of this is you forget how much crap you bought for souvenirs until you have to schlep all that $&^@ up three floors of narrow stairs. 


Our room was... festive, though it did lack the scratchy "bow chicka wow wow" on the stereo one would expect with their choice in lighting.  Also, there were exactly two places in the room that James could fully stand, due to sloped ceilings and crystal chandeliers.  Apparently this room was designed for being vertical?   How thoughtful!!!  Because a long LONG rest is exactly what I had in mind!! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Avebury Woo-woo


Avebury Stone Circle is largest stone circle in the world, dating back to about 4,500 years ago!  The town is quaint and steeped in history, and the fact that you can meander about the stones and actually TOUCH THEM has made me choose this site over the far more popular Stonehenge twice now.  (Also, less people is ALWAYS a big plus in my book!) 


You cross through several little gates and over roadways to get to the different areas, and, if you visit during the spring when mama and I went, you can comingle with the local sheep!  Which, I suppose, might not be as exciting for some of you as it was for us.  


Theories and speculation abound regarding the meaning of the stones, and what sorts of mystical pagans may have erected them for spiritual rituals, etc. 


Here is James before his ritual sacrifice ... afternoon tea.  Yes... that's it.  Before his tea. 


Mystical pagan rituals aside, I'm just highly grateful I wasn't around in the times when they actually PLACED these suckers.  Although I'm sure the poor blokes who erected the pyramids would point to the fact at least these guys toiled in somewhat less harsh weather conditions.   

Avebury's Red Lion hotel certainly doesn't look like any I've seen Stateside! 

Thatched rooftops are really quite remarkable.  Such unique shape and style, though I imagine the upkeep must be considerable in the wet environment! 


We got to see more of how a thatched roof works inside the Alexander Keiller Museum, where you can see both the top and underside when you go indoors.  It was a rainy, blustery day on our visit, and I can't imagine what the heating bill must look like to be able to keep it halfway comfortable in there year round! 


This roof edge shows how tightly packed the straw is, as well as the metal mesh cover that have on top.  Which I imagine helps with lengthening the life, as well as keeping local sparrows from setting up camp, and from stealing bits of straw to make their nests. 


It was a treat to see the underside of the roof (replete with spider webs, yikes!!), since you miss out on that while strolling through the streets admiring the outsides of them! 


The museum itself is quite worthwhile, as it covers both the ancient history of the area, as well as the fascinating history of Alexander Keiller, who was hugely instrumental in the restoration and preservation of the area during the 1930's.

A short walk from the museum is Avebury Manor and Gardens. The gardens are arranged by "themes" of sorts, with some focusing on topiaries, kitchen herbs, etc. Our visit in late August rewarded us with flowers that just went on an on. 


The Dahlias were almost like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, they were so perfect and colorful and bountiful! 

I insisted on staying out in the rain for longer than was prudent, but thankfully the Manor awaited us with heaters on full blast. 



I have to start out with the fact that my absolute FAVORITE thing about Avebury Manor is that you can TOUCH STUFF.  Perhaps it's immaturity on my part, but one does get awfully bored with having to bend at the waist to peer over velvet ropes to be able to see anything at all.  

The manor was refurbished quite recently with help from The National Trust, and was part of a TV program called "The Manor Reborn". I have yet to watch the program, but we did buy a nice coffee table book that shows the amazing process. The house is privately owned, and people still live in parts, with the rest being open to visitors, such as myself, who deeply appreciated the ability to jump right into the experience.  

Each room is designed to reflect a particular period when the house was occupied.  Below, I indulge in a recreated Tudor dining room feast.  Mmm, boar's head, my favorite!



One of the very few things you're not to touch in the house is the Chinese HAND-PAINTED wallpaper in the Georgian dining room.  Hand.  Painted.  Folks.  


Another detail from the Georgian era room that I got an absolute kick out of was this "exercise chair". The little step drawer comes out from below, then the person wishing to work off a little of a rich dinner steps up, sits on the bellows part, grabs the two upright handles, and proceeds to bounce up and down.  After watching a few youngsters give it a go, I think anyone just watching such antics would get a perfectly good workout just from laughing!   Honestly, with all the bustles, corsets and frills they all wore, I can't even imagine what a hilarious sight that must have been. 


In the billiard room, James finally got over his fear of touching/breaking things, and cozies up with a snifter.  Which actually contained some form of alcohol, though James wouldn't take me up on my dares for him to see if it was really brandy or not.   Chicken. 


In addition to a full sized billiard table (which you can still use!!) they had a beautiful authentic record player, which we soon realized still worked and was in use!! 


Playing an ancient vinyl of "Teddy Bear Picnic"  !!!  I found that just utterly charming.


Next stop was the kitchen, where they had a fun little set up where kiddos could grind flour or some such thing.  My eyes were drawn to the shiny stuff.  Such pretty pots!!


The stove was certainly a thing to behold as well, with all the kettles and copperware.

With a dead pheasant on the wall, too!   How authentic! 

The aforementioned Alexander Keiller bought the place in 1937, and the living room is designed with his style/era in mind. Keiller's was the sole heir of his family's marmalade business, and used his wealth to fuel his interest in archaeology.   Well, that, and women.   But his work was monumental (pardon the pun) in restoring the area, and he and his team discovered and re-placed many of the stones that had fallen (and been buried!) over through the centuries. 


I forget which themed room this was, but WHAT A BED!!!! 

And not a bad ceiling to look up at either. 

Another little fun detail they had in one of the rooms was a little embroidery loom for people to sit and stitch a bit. 


The windowsill was lined with different colors of floss, along with a number of needles that people could use to leave a little fanciful graffiti of themselves behind. 

They had even hung the visitors tapestries along one wall as they changed out the rolls.  

I managed the letter "K" before poking my fingers enough times that the blood loss and subsequent swearing led to James quietly leading me away from tender ears.  

By the pricking of my thumbs, humbug!