Monday, August 29, 2016

Days in the kitchen

These past few days have seen us busy with preserving food. My wife had picked a whole lot of black and red currants, I picked gooseberries in our garden, both yellow and red and we are having our very first brambles!! All these berries, or at least the ones surviving the initial onslaught from bush till bucket, ended up as syrup and jam. And plenty of it. Most of the black currants became syrup and the jam was black & red currants, white and red gooseberries and brambles. But I must say we are burning through those quite rapidly. Nothing beats the taste of homemade stuff and the jam and syrup gets used in a lot of things, not just sandwiches and drinks.
The black currants have been used .... twice! Once to make syrup and after we had extracted the juice we froze the remaining berries, which we used in the jam as well. Nothing thrown away and this way the jam is not as runny, so less sugar is needed to create the jelly. We used up to 30% of the normally required amount of sugar and the taste is amazing!
And I did something new; canning peaches in honey syrup. I roughly followed Corina's recipe, which you can find here; marblemount homestead, how to can peaches with honey. I must say roughly, since we do not have peaches growing here, so they were store bought. I also had to store them in the fridge for 2 days, before I could use them. And I did not use mason jars, but weck-jars. Y´know, the ones with glass lid and rubber seals.
Her syrup mixture was followed roughly as well; 6 quarts + 3 cups = roughly 6 liters + 7,5dl, so 2,5dl of honey for every 2 liters of water.... if my math is correct and I must admit it is NOT my strong suit. And it was a success!! Everyone loved them!! Taste real good with vanilla icecream!

Jams to the right, goulash next to it, then the peaches and black currant syrup to the left
And while I was going to can anyway I thought I'd kill 2 birds with one stone: increase the food supply by adding a few jars of goulash. The second bird being emptying the freezer by using older supplies to create room for fresh ones.
But that was not all. Now we were in the mood for it, so we continued. There was boxes of rhubarb left in the freezer.... and strawberries.... and still some red currants and black currant mush. Yup, another batch of jams was whipped up. And in order to further stock up on ready meals and use all those zucchini we harvested, we made zucchini soup, which also contains a good deal of bacon, onions, carrots and garlic. Topped off with some cream it really is good. A fulfilling and hearty soup, ideal for autumn like weather. Which we are having incidentally.

Making jam from fresh berries is very easy. You weigh the amount of fruit and calculate the amount of jamsugar needed. We used used 300 grams of sugar for 1000 grams of fruit. Slowly heat the fruit to a boil, whilst stirring and then add the sugar. Keep stirring!! Allow to slowly boil for 2-5 minutes, fill your jars, put on the lid and put aside up side down. Allow to cool, before you turn the jars the right way up. Now a vacuum is created.

When canning, preparation is essential.
Clean and check the jars, lids and rings for damages and fit. We always sterilise the glassware by putting it in the over for 10-15 minutes at 125C. The rubber seals are boiled briefly. We allow the glass to cool down a little, so they can be handled somewhat better. Then we fill them with the warm food (75C+) and when sealed place them in the cooker, where the water is about the same temperature. Then it really depends on the sort of food we have for how long and at what temperature we heat it all. The sterilisation process also helps reduce tensions withing the glass, due to temperature differences.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Five years in Sweden.

Five years in Sweden..... A good reason for a celebration and a reflection.
First the celebration part. We figured that, since it would be the exact same weekend (thursday till sunday), we would attend a local hardrock festival; Sabaton Open Air in Falun. Most in the family are fans of Sabaton, some like them and all enjoy a good metalband. We had booked so called early bird tickets last september on the day they were released, so entrance was assured. Incidentally this weekend would also be the last weekend of the kids' summerholiday, so a nice ending to that as well.
Of course life got in the way and messed things up. Schools decided to start 2 days early, meaning the thursday and friday before the usual start. So a no go for the kids on those days. I got a scheduled 24hr shift from friday to saturday, so again a no go. And my wife is one of the cofounders of the official Swedish fanclub The Swedish Caroleans and they were scheduled to introduce themselves to the fans on that festival as well. So a job for her there, too. Anyway, we all attended at some point and when Sabaton played we were all there.....
And what a disappointment! For me that is. While the rest were really enjoying themselves, I was experiencing the unexpected and highly unpleasant effects of very loud music and very bright lights. Not only was the sound quality not the very best to say the least. No I was actually in pain, because of it! The massiv amounts of dB's seriously hurt my ears and I could (should) have used earplugs, but the soundwaves caused by the bassdrums hurt too! And the lights!! Imagine staring in blinking stroboscope lights, while your eyes are adjusted to darkness. As if someone pierced my eyes with knittingpins! I was really experiencing physical discomfort on a high level and it really surprised me! I used to go to festivals and metalconcerts, which I have to admit was more than 25 years ago, but still. Maybe I was so numbed by my upbringing and living conditions in my late teens that I was impervious to those effects back then.... Or I have grow so out of tune with this all, that I have really started living on completely different wavelengths. All I know is that it felt very offensive, very intrusive and violent. Well, I hung in there and made it through the show, because there were a few songs I like and I did not want to spoil the fun, but I could not stand to listen to another band after those 1,5 hrs.

However my wife did enjoy herself those days, our girls had the time of their lives on friday night and saturday and our son did enjoy the concert a lot, but had his fill after that, too.
So on sunday we had our own little afterparty at home. The mrs. had brought home a very special gift... Kids rolled into bed early and we enjoyed the peace and quiet, after a very successful visit to a large barnsale... Yup, we did it again and I will get back to that on a later date.

The reflections....
Five years ago, on august 17th 2011 we came here, to this country, to build a new life, get away from Dutch society which has run wild, to find peace, happiness and purpose. We were next to clueless on what Swedish people and society would be like. We only spoke a handful of Swedish. Literally.... We thought we knew a little about society... but all we really cared about was the way we felt about this country, this region we were moving to. It was home...
But it has been an uphill battle ever since. We had a few breaks and lucky shots, but life in general has not been easy for us. And it shows. We have lost friends and family. We have experienced loneliness and isolation, poverty and uncertainty, desperation and helplessness and it grinds you down. But we also experienced deep gratitude, a feeling of pride and accomplishment, satisfaction and sheer joy. Happiness!!
An emotional and mental rollercoaster, but so far we gave made it. Really made it. We came here with little more possessions than you can cram into a Mercedes van and look at what we have now; a home of our own, a vegetable garden, dogs, bees, chickens. Two cars, which are a necessity under the circumstances, a good deal of essential, non-powered handtools, warm clothes, good food on the table and we are all in good or much better health than before.
In a few months we can and will apply for Swedish citizenship and I do believe that, while we still retain some Dutch characteristics, we have also adapted and have fully integrated.
I am very proud of us and grateful.

We, or I, have not always been equally positive about the country we moved too. We have come to the conclusion that many of our new countrymen show characteristics we find hard to deal with. Characteristics we deam not positiv, that do not enhance the general well being of the community or society. We have found our way into a society, which has a for us highly questionable vision of their own little world and of the great, big world outside their comfort zone. We have also come to realise that we ourselves, or again I, have traits, that can make it hard to deal with me, let alone befriend me. I can be and am very straight forward. I speak my mind without consideration of the receivers alleged status or rank. I have a dark sense or humor and am very good at ridiculing myself. Many do not get that here. Levels of sarcasm are really advanced and I will not shy away from cynicism. I do not care one bit for sports in a country that lives and breathes it. Other places of social interacting are dozens of kilometers away....
Then why the hell did we move here?? I have been asked that many times. My answer: imagine a country, roughly the same size of the province we live in..... then place 17.000.000 people in that, whereas there are roughly 300.000 now. People are shocked and eyes get big when this comparison sinks in. Here you find time and place to live. Here is where heart and mind are at easy, belong.
Then why do you want to stay and even become a Swede? I love the country. Here is where I am truly at home. I do not care much for the average person I have to interact with here, but then again I don't care much for people in general.
Mind you I have generalised a very great deal when talking about Swedes and there are vast numbers of exceptions to the rule. I also realise there is no such thing as 'a Swede''. How can it be in a country that is so outstretched? I can only comment on the people we have met and dealt with so far and if there are general good characteristics to be mentioned, than those have to be politeness,  kindness and a great willingness to help when asked.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Personal horizon

These past few weeks or months I have been swamped in work... I have deliberately focused on my own little world; the work with the boys, the building up of our little homestead, the everyday struggles as of a father with teenagers, both human and non-human.... It helped me to blot out the mad world out there. All that misery, the hatred, the violence and the bloodshed. A coup attempt in Turkey, attacks in France and Germany, orchestrated or the actions of a single madman, the local media constantly blaring how bad those muslim immigrants are, raping and vandalising our women and cultures.... Not to mention Brexit and the turmoil that caused.
But then you do some research..... and quickly it all becomes a whole lot less black and white. Suggested evidence that the Nice attacks for instance were completely staged! Not a single human casualty. All those rape and violation reports in Sweden.... many committed by Swedes!! And that coup in Turkey seems to have US fingerprints all over it. A lot of the ISIS weaponry is of American make as well.... Even Trump claims that the US founded ISIS!! And it becomes clear to me again; we are being driven towards a massive conflict. Lied to. Manipulated. Brainwashed. Herded into bands of bloodthirsty beasts, yearning for the blood of "the others". The banks and their faulty, fraudulent schemes are failing, collapsing and they devise ever more wicked, criminal, desperate schemes to avoid the inevitable. The dwindling influence of the USA and its dollar can only be slowed down by increasing amounts of disorder and chaos. And of course the Russian are presented as villains too, besides Iran, the muslims, the North Koreans and anyone who does not march by the tunes of the US, UN, IMF. They backup Assad, because Assad refuses to bow to the US government and the IMF, same as Libya and Iran by the way. Many nations back away from the US and IMF as it is and now many seemingly are joining the non-IMF-based Chinese model, so the pressure rises. That calls for more warmongering from the other side of the Atlantic and its NATO stooges!
And now Putin is upping the odds once more by refusing private banks to create money out of nothing as they have done all over the world, causing the chaos we see now. And of course those bank mafiosi can not let that happen. I am sure we will see another finger pointed at Russia by the mainstream media, telling us how bad those damn Russians are.
What these media are not telling us, is that Putin is warning us common citizens for the consequences of the actions undertaken by the bank, the governments and the mainstream media. We are heading toward war. War on a global, unprecedented scale with one purpose and only one purpose; to gain profit for the homicidal and psychopathic elite that runs the entire show behind the screens.

And if that's not enough, there's still good ol' China, flexin' muscles in the South Chinese Sea and who else would be there to make a show? Well Uncle Sam of course! Where there's a fight, there's Uncle Sam. They don't want you, they want what you got....

According to the laws of physics any action seems to have an equal and opposite reaction.
I came across an article that appears to show that something else, something equally big is going on; a massive change among people. And I do believe something IS going on. People are waking up, speaking up, asking questions and seeks alternatives to the ways of today. This in itself is of course nothing new. What seems to be new, is the scale of things. The internet gives those involved the means to get connected in these times of disconnectedness. Many scream that the internet is the source of just that, but I tend to disagree. For me it has brought both knowledge and real life friendship.
Here's the article by Gustavo Tanaka. It is not the most recent and many things might be over enthusiastic, but if you look around you can see the sign for yourself.

On second thoughts.... I just copy the article here, just in case it vanishes....

There is something extraordinary happening in the world

Most of us haven’t quite realized there is something extraordinary happening.
A few months ago I freed myself from standard-procedure society, I broke the chains of fear that kept me locked up into the system. Since then, I see the world from a different perspective: the one that everything is going through change and that most of us are unaware of that.
Why is the world changing? In this post I’ll point out the 8 reasons that lead me to believe it.

1- No one can stand the employment model any longer

We are reaching our limits. People working with big corporations can’t stand their jobs. The lack of purpose knocks on your door as if it came from inside you like a yell of despair.
People want out. They want to drop everything. Take a look on how many people are willing to risk entrepreneurship, people leaving on sabbaticals, people with work-related depression, people in burnout.

2- The entrepreneurship model is also changing

Over the past few years, with the explosion of startups, thousands of entrepreneurs turned their garages in offices to bring their billion dollar ideas to life. The vortex of entrepreneurship was to find an investor and get funded. To be funded was like winning the World Cup, or the Super Bowl.
But what happens after you get funded?
You get back to being an employee. You may have brought in people not sharing your dream, not in agreement with your purpose and soon it’s all about the money. The financial end becomes the main driver of your business.
People are suffering with it. Excellent startups began to tumble because the money seeking model is endless.
A new way to endeavor is needed. Good people are doing it already.

3- The rise of collaboration

Many people have figured out that it doesn’t make any sense to go on by yourself. Many people have awakened from the “each man for himself” mad mentality.
Stop, take a step back and think. Isn’t it absurd that we, 7 billion of us living in the same planet, have grown further apart from each other? What sense does it make to turn your back on the thousands, maybe millions, of people living around you in the same city? Every time it crosses my mind, I feel blue.
Fortunately, things are changing. Sharing, collaborative economy concepts are being implemented, and it points towards a new direction. The direction of collaborating, of sharing, of helping, of togetherness.
This is beautiful to watch. It touches me.

4- We are finally figuring out what the internet is

The internet is an incredibly spectacular thing and only now, after so many years, we are understanding its power. With the internet the world is opened, the barriers fall, the separation ends, the togetherness starts, the collaboration explodes, the helping emerges.
Some nations saw true revolutions that used the internet as the primary catalyst, such as the Arab Spring. Here in Brazil we are just starting to make a better use out of this amazing tool.
Internet is taking down mass control. The big media groups controlling news by how it suits best what they want the message to be and what they want us to read are no longer the sole owners of information. You go after what you want. You bond to whomever you want. You explore whatever you may want to.
With the advent of the internet, the small is no longer speechless, there is a voice. The anonymous become acknowledged. The world comes together. And then the system may fall.

5- The fall of exaggerated consumerism

For too long, we’ve been manipulated to consume as much as we possibly can. To buy every new product launched, the newest car, the latest iPhone, the top brands, lots of clothes, shoes, lots and lots and lots of pretty much anything we could our hands on.
Going against the crowd, many people have understood that this of way off. Lowsumerism, slow life and slow food are a few excerpts of actions being taken as we speak, pointing out by contradiction how absurdly we have come to organize ourselves.
Fewer people are using cars, fewer people are overspending, and more people are swapping clothes, buying used goods, sharing assets, cars, apartments, offices.
We don’t need all of that they told us we needed. And this consciousness of new consumerism can take down any company living of the exaggerated end of it.

6- Healthy and organic eating

We were so crazy we even accepted eating anything! It only needed to taste good, and everything would be alright.
We were so disconnected that companies started to poison our food and we didn’t say anything!
But then some people started waking up, enabling and strengthening healthy and organic eating.
This is only to get stronger.
But what has this got to do with economy and work? Just about everything, I’d say.
Food production is one of the basic fundamentals of our society. If we change our mindset, our eating habit and our way of consuming, corporations will have to respond and adapt to a new market.
The small farmer is getting back to being relevant to the whole chain of production. Even people are growing plants and seeds inside their homes as well.
And that reshapes the whole economy.

7 — The awakening of spirituality

How many friends do you have who practice yoga? What about meditation? Now think back, 10 years ago, how many people did you know by then who practiced these activities?
Spirituality, for too long, was for esoteric folks, those weird-like and mystic people.
But fortunately, this is also changing. We’ve come to the edge of reason and rationality. We were able to realize that, with only our conscious mind, we can’t figure out everything that goes by here. There is something else going on and I’m sure you want to get hold of that as well.
You want to understand how these things work. How life operates, what happens after death, what is this energy thing people talk about so much, what is quantum physics, how thoughts can be materialized and create our sense of reality, what is coincidence and synchronicity, why meditation works, how it’s possible to cure using nothing but bare hands, how those alternative therapies not approved by regular medicine can actually work.
Companies are providing meditation to their employees. Even schools are teaching the young how to meditate. Think about it.

8 — Unschooling trends

Who created this teaching model? Who chose the classes you have to take? Who chose the lessons we learn in history classes? Why didn’t they teach us the truth about other ancient civilizations?
Why should kids follow a certain set of rules? Why should they watch everything in silence? Why should they wear a uniform? What about taking a test to prove that you actually learned?
We developed a model that perpetuates and replicates followers of the system. That breed people into ordinary human beings.
Fortunately, a lot of people are working to rethink that though concepts such as unschooling, hackschooling, homeschooling.
Maybe you’ve never thought of that and even may be in shock. But it’s happening.
Silently, people are being woken up and are realizing how crazy it is to live in this society.
Look at all these new actions and try to think everything is normal we were taught so far is normal. I don’t think it is.
There is something extraordinary happening.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Slaughtering roosters - part II

What a way to start a monday.....
I had to take care of the last 3 roosters today. They were harassing the young hens far too much, causing a great deal of stress. The circumstances were a bit different this time. For starters I was alone plus this time there were 3 of them. It wasn't raining however, just windy and overcast.
The roosters were relatively easily caught, limiting the stress considerably for both them and me. This time I used a flat stick, as show in the video in the previous post. It knocked them out faster, but not as fast as in the video. I found myself striking a second time, just to make the eyes stop blinking at me. However cutting the throat caused 2 out of 3 to start flapping anyway, but the third one went down right away. Or so I thought. When I was preparing the first one to get dressed (now that sounds weird, but that's what you do when cleaning them up; dressing an animal) I caught movement from the corner of my eye. The third one was NOT down. And when I approached it to finish it off quickly, it was gasping. When I hit it in the neck with my hatchet, it"flew" up, scaring the living bejezus out of me. It sprayed the area, including me, with blood before going down and for good this time, but left me seriously rattled. Good thing was I had killed them all 3 in a row, otherwise I'd've quit there and then.
After I had caught myself again, I started the same procedure as before. Carefully cutting the skin around the legs and skinning them. There are 3 really hard parts to skin; the edges of the forearm, where the large feathers are attached are the first 2. It takes some considerable force to tear the skin off here.
The other area is the lower back, where the tailfeathers are attched; a patch of app. 5cm in diameter.

When skinning a rooster, you'll find the skin is very tough. It will not tear easy and is quite rough on the edge of your knife! The knife loses its edge fast and cutting through the tendons of the wing joints it doesn't get any better. So keep your knives sharpened! It will make your job sooo much easier.

Another thing to consider is that the membranes on the inside, the ones keeping the intestines in place, as remarkably tough as well. Simply scooping out the intestines is not possible. You'll have to tear those membranes, freeing the organs.
When exposed to the air and wind, the membranes on the outside quickly dry, making them too tough and hard to cut through. By the time I was making my way through the process on rooster nr.2 had started going rigid.
I ruined both the first 2 roosters. I messed up liver and gallbladder with the first, cut up the anus and tore the intestines of the second. I lost heart after that, so ended up "donating" the 3 carcasses to Mother Earth. This way at least some creature will be able to feed and feast on it.

So very little to show for this time, apart from a good number of mistakes, but I guess that's where I learn from. The killing in itself and the aftermath had a little less impact this time, though. Maybe because I didn't drag it out?

Why did I mention earlier that I was alone? It makes a difference (to me) mentally. There's no one to talk to to take your mind of what you're doing and above all no one to give you advice or suggestions. Just the very act of talking is calming in this process. So this time I was quite tense. The repetition of the hard killings not making it any easier. However killing them fast after each other resulted in a knot in the stomach just once, afterwards.

But even today we did receive a reward. The mrs. collected some eggs yesterday and this morning; 3 in total. But today our youngest daughter found some more in a dark corner! We are home producing food!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Slaughtering roosters

The contents of this post might be regarded by some as graphic.
It contains details and images of roosters being slaughtered!

Well, our first batch of hens has arrived; 3 2 year old and 2 1 yearlings. It was fun meeting the lady we bought them from and we already arranged for more to come to us, when they have matured more. She had loads och hatchlings!! She also strongly recommended to keep our batch of roosters away from the hens! She predicted a huge brawl in which the hens were very likely to get seriously injured.
So the hens moved into the henhouse, we introduced Sirius to them and the rest of them.... Well, they had to be kept separate. That meant a problem during the night! We had to erect a makeshift shelter, covered it with a tarp and had quite some trouble getting our gang of bachelors to move into the shelter to spend the night there. On top of that it had started to rain and when I went out to prepare them for the night I found them all huddled together and piled upon each other in front of the door into the henhouse. It was a heartbreaking sight. It felt not right to have to accommodate them this way, since it would be their last night alive. We had to slaughter them the next day. It was what we intended in the first place, but now events forced us to rush it forward.
Since we had no one to teach us how to do things, we read on it and checked youtube. One video appealed to us, since the sequence of slaughtering look not as complicated AND the chicken in question seemed to be killed quickly and painlessly. The video also showed how to skip on plucking a bird, which should save us a lot of time as well. So we went for that one. Now mind you that, because it is called a prepping video, we do not consider ourselves to belong to that category. A second thing is that I recommend to turn down the volume, when watching the clip. The music's awful!! Or at least I think it is....

We sure picked our day to do it. After many dry and comfortable days we were left with one day, since we both had to work until the following weekend, and of course that day was rainy, windy and cold. Just our luck. By the way we wore latex gloves. Not just because we are squeamish, but also because I learned during hunting course that touching meat with your bare hands can and most likely will spoil the meat you are handling. The circumstances we worked in were primitive at best, despite the new set of butchering knives we bought the day before. Another tip from hunting course; have one set you solely use for that purpose!
The first rooster we took, was the apparently lowest ranking one. He was the smallest and always last. I followed the video, sat on my knees, rooster between the thighs, heart racing like mad.... and I struck. But the rooster would not be stunned or go unconscious at once. Not even at twice of third.... Of course this would happen to me. My first kill and it would be a struggle! I held the rooster between my thighs and struck again. Now it went down. I reached for the knife and cut its throat. Despite the blows to the head and the cut throat it still flapped and I had to hold it down. A storm of raging emotions tore through my intestines and I felt my stomach  turned into a ball.
It was over and I started to breathe again..... Dear God... I had to calm myself a bit after this. I have to admit I was pretty taken back by this.
And as we hung up the rooster to proceed with the slaughtering, the skies opened up. It started raining...
The slaughtering of the first one went relatively well, given our total inexperience. Nothing got damaged and the meat look good. We did not pluck them, we skinned them. The removal of the skin+feathers was a lot faster (I think) than plucking. A lot less messy as well. However the skin came off a lot harder than the video shows and what I had experienced when doing the hare a while ago. Getting the intestines out was not all that hard, but rummaging around inside a warm carcass with my fingers was not my idea of pleasant.
After we were finished it was lunchtime... and did that feel weird. Unfitting.. Wrong! I didn't think I could eat anything, but yet I did. Talking the dogs for a walk after that helped calming us down, but now the rain really started coming down and our relaxing walk was cut short. Soaked and cold we came home, but by now the rain had stopped. Time for rooster nr.2. And if I had thought the first one was a fight... This one just wouldn't go down! Even after beating him on the head and cutting his throat he would not give in. I almost sat on him, holding him down and in place with both hands on his wings, his blood pumping out, him gurgling as I could feel the life drain away from him, still struggling and flapping. In a feat of desperation I cut his head off and as he lay still I was emotionally drained, badly shaken, wondering what the hell had gone wrong? A few deep breathes and some hard swallows followed. My wife took over most of the slaughtering after this, but even that would not be an easy job. This son of a bitch was a tough one! But eventually he too was cooling down in the fridge, all cleaned out and up.
We sat down for a cup of tea. Holy shit. This was tough! No easy meals served here today! The rain was coming down more incessant now..... Deep breath. Nr.3. We decided to go for the head chopping off-drill. Hatchet and block at the ready... In we went, an easy catch. I carried this one down to the "chopping block", but as I arrived I froze..... I couldn't. I just couldn't bring myself to put him on the block or to kneel down and repeat the process. I had had enough for the day. This was more than I could stomach. Try and push as I might, but this was a no go. I turned around and put him back with the others again. Not this one. Not now. Not this day...... My wife did not fare much (if any) better by the way.
We took a large gamble and opened up the henhouse, so the remaining roosters could go in, warm and dry and meet Sirius and the ladies. Fingers crossed that they would not be at each other's throat. We kept an eye on the lot and by now the rain poured down.... a deluge and it would not stop.

This was our introduction into the slaughtering chapter of homesteading and it was a brutal lesson. We will have to repeat it and we will! To me it is an essential skill we must master, even it it really is an unpleasant one. We want to keep animals, we enjoy their presence and want to take good care of them, we want decent, fair food... so this is a part of the process. The next step or one of the steps.
For now I will refrain from repeating it, though. Keep a close eye on our flock and cull when needed, but no more than 1, max. 2 a day!
Maybe, as we gain more experience, we might push it a little further in the future.

For all you who are new to this too:"DO NOT DO AS WE DID! Get someone to show you, to introduce you to it and to guide you. This experience was so raw that I really can not recommend it.

But at the end of the day all was well again. We got a new kitten.....
Our youngest daughter absolutely wanted to show us that she too can handle the responsibility of taking care of an animal of her own. Meet Pepsi..... (no, we did not name her that. The previous owner did....) and yet another girl to the flock.
And Rex and Lester have a hard time coping with it all; roosters, hens, dead animals and a new and very tiny cat..... that hisses and spits at them!! This was the first time either of them backed down! For Pepsi it is the first time she ever meets dogs and now she's facing two huge ones with one having a strong curiosity and a small brain.
And all the roosters are in the henhouse and there's no sign of a fight what's however.... keeping our fingers crossed.

Is all well that ends well? Mmmm no not really. When walking the dogs my wife broke one of her fingers. It got caught in one of the leashes and when Lester jumped up..... one of the finger bones got split lengthwise and twisted vertically. So now she has her right hand in a spline, next to completely incapacitating her. A small mishap, a lesser injury, but with large consequences on the homestead. The timing could've been better. But it is something to consider. How to spread the risk of a homestead grinding to a halt, when something like this occurs?

Monday, August 8, 2016

We're harvesting....

There's a change in the air. The air is a lot cooler, fresh, there's a lot of wind with strong gales and it is overcast. And I noticed that I am enjoying it! really enjoying it! The days are getting shorter and fast! By 5 minutes every day..... A good month ago we sat outside and could read at midnight. Now we are sitting inside during the late evening with the lights on.
I wrote earlier that the harvest in our garden this year is modest, but luckily we are able to harvest elsewhere. The last, large batch of rhubarb, loads of black and red currants. Our own garden yields squash, chard and pickles and the brambles are ripening. Onions and garlic is drying, but the latter is a lot smaller than I had thought. Again the ground is far too dense and heavy. I hope I can get some cloves to replant elsewhere.
Soon the potatoes will follow and the kale is doing fine. We spotted the first cabbages in the making and the corn is setting fruit too. Just hope it will ripen, but that goes for a lot this year. Hoping for a good, warm and sunny autumn.
In a week or so we will also start feeding the bees in order to help them getting through the winter.

My favorite place in the food garden.
Who says that those have to be neat, orderly and boring??

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chicken run - part 2

Well, so far so good.
The roosters seem to have made themselves at home. Like I said there are 7 of them; one black, one white and 5 brown ones. From the beginning I had the feeling that the black one would be a good one to keep for raising a stock; big, healthy and strong looking. Another one that caught my eye early was one of the brown ones, but this one is positively blazing with a deep bronze. The other ones were much more drab and I sort of did not like the white one. Later it turned out that the ones I picked instinctively established themselves as the most dominant ones; 1 - black, 2 -  bronze, 3 - white. And my wife thought it a good idea to give them names. She opted for Blackadder for the black one. I suggested Sirius Black during dinner and the kids picked that one up too. So that's what it is now. The bronze one became Weasley. Courtesy of the wife.....
The remaining 5 will not live to see the approach of autumn. The will become practical studying material in how to kill and slaughter poultry. If all goes well we will end up with 5x meat for dinner. If things go bad, than the dogs will be the lucky ones and nothing will be lost. Only a lot of knowledge will be gained.
As I said in the previous chicken-post the interior was very rudimentary at first; 2 transport pallets, some sticks in between and that was that. We chose to buy a feeder and waterer. The previous I could have constructed myself, but we were kind of in a hurry, so opted for the easy way out to begin with. I will make a decent feeder in due time.
We made the mistake of not blinding the windows of the henhouse the first night. At 04:00 (yup, AM!!) the boys were up and running... well, crowing. While it sounds like fun and romantic to wake up to the crowing of a rooster, it is a whole lot less fun at 04:00 with several of them at it. Takes the romance kind off of things....

While most of the construction materials were free we did have to dish out a substantial amount of cash anyway. All of the hardware had to be bought; hinges, fencing, wire, more screws and nails (amazing how fast you burn through that stuff!). Especially the fencing set us back. No astronomical amounts though. Well within our limits. If I have to guess I'd say the entire project cost us about 2500kr (roughly €260 or $290) and that includes EVERYTHING. Not bad at all, if I may say so myself.

As I was working on the fencing, low to the ground, Sirius came up to me and stared checking me out. He stood still, right eye turned toward me and so close that I could actually see his pupil expand and contract. He has 4 little dark specks in his brown, yellow lined iris, spaced like the ends of a crosshair.
I forgot about what I was doing and we just watched each other. We did so for a couple of minutes and I marvelled at what a magnificent animal such a cock actually is. His black isn't black, but shimmers with a deep, rich, oily green. His talons were huge and his legs powerful. I had never seen a rooster up this close and his comb and wattles bright red and looking rubbery.
I never seem to cease to be amazed at the wonder of Mother Nature's creations.....
Today the wife and I had to cover the outside area anew. The netting we used was woefully inadequate and tore up way too easy. So we decided that we would redo it all with proper metal mesh. That should keep out the birds of prey and keep in the bird of food for some years to come. All in all that area is a good 15x4 meters, so plenty of room for the birds. Eventually they will also be able to roam the garden free at certain days.

Sirius Black

The "finished" henhouse

And how we have embedded it into the garden.
And now everything is finished up to the point that the final bits 'n pieces can be done, whenever we feel like it. The pressure's off. All that remains now are things like interior decorating, a bit of insulation, painting the exterior and most importantly making some blinds for the windows.
I need to make something to store the food and hay as well. Preferably mouseproof.

Of course we did  introduce these chaps to our other non-human inhabitants. Rex and Lester go nuts, whenever they come out and want to dash for the new guys immediately. It even went so far that Lester jumped out the kitchen window, some 1,7 meters above ground level and Rex opened the frontdoor himself. Our cats are far less nosey. Our black one, Eddie, just looked and went on and our red one, Karel, came in for a closer look. Cool to see that wherever he went he drew a crowd.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Chicken run!

All of a sudden our homesteading went into overdrive!
I had started on the next project of our developing homestead; the obligatory chicken coop. That was easier said than done, since I have never before undertaken such a large project, meaning the construction of a coop, large enough to house a chicken population, large enough to sustain the five of us, in a nordic climate with a next to zero budget. Talk about a challenge....
But now all that scrounging of materials came together. The pallets I collected became the floor and the inside wall and roof, the pile of wood planks collected april last year was largely turned into walls and roof and the load of roof tiles my son and I got in the summer of 2015 topped it all literally. All of this came together and became a chickenhouse. Yes, house. If I add a small stove, a bed, a chair and a table one could live there. Smallscale, but still....
So I happily started tinkering, sawing and hammering away. I had no real fixed plan, other than using the pallets as the floor, erect walls around it, put on a roof and have a door and 2 windows in the south facing front. The size of the planks did not exactly match the size of the floor, leaving small gaps in between. But that was quite ok, since I wanted the chicken coop to match the style of the house. I was planning on adding extra slats anyway. But now I needed to fill in the gaps and lo and behold.... we had a few bags of mineral wool, which we.... surprise, surprise.... we got for free.

What the hell did I get myself into this time???

Errr.... this goes in here somewhere???

And then, while I was happily tinkering, it happened; we were offered 7 free roosters! But we had to come and get them fast. Almost immediately after that I came across someone selling hens from the breed we wanted in varying ages and we arranged for us to go and get 6-8 of them at the end of the same week as we were going to get the roosters. Now the pressure was on! We had about 1 week to get it all done!
On top of things...

And I underestimated the amount of work going into making a chicken coop and outside area. The rough building of the house was the easiest part. Next came the small chores; door, windows and above all; insulation! Now that took a lot of work and even more time! But I feel that in our climate it needs to be done and to be taken seriously. We are not planning on heating the henhouse, so They have to maintain temperature themselves. That plus 3 windows on the south side. These are placed in such a way that only during the cold months the sun will shine into the henhouse directly and only for a brief period. So instead of 2 windows I opted for an extra one in the door.
Stuffing that mineral wool into all the cracks, nooks and openings was a real pain in the butt. No skin actually, but I am sure it will pay off.
Luckily I did get some occasional help. My son helped me with the fencing and the construction of the overhead netting to keep out the birds of prey and my youngest did her best with the wool. After filling 2 slits she had to call it a day. Itched like hell!

And, as it always does with projects like this, there are many more subprojects than one anticipates on the get go. An entry into the outside area for instance. I had to quickly make one, after I realised that I would not otherwise be able to access that area!
Another fun issue was the placing of the poles to hold the fencing. The underground contains rocks.... and a lot of them! Not just rocks... boulders. Maybe even bedrock. The ones nearest to the house would not go down for more then 25-30cm, before I hit a dead end. Many wouldn't go down straight anyway.
In the end I ended up improvising a lot. When the day came to get the roosters I was long from finished. Felt like a realtime house move; moving in while you're not done building/renovating. But I guess the roosters didn't mind all that much. So we kept on working on the place with the animals on site. On the to-do-list were still covering the outside area. We tried netting used for keeping bird away from fruit bushes and trees. Big fail. Got torn up the first time one of the roosters flew into it.
The interior of the henhouse was makeshift too, but it worked.... sort of.
One achievement was that I did not get injured! Those that know me know that that is no little feat... I had 2 close calls though as first one of the endboards of the roof gave way, when I was standing on it with one foot and the other was when the kitchen stool I was standing on flipped over and I almost nose dived into the grass.

Now there's a story to those yellow wooden shoes; before we went and got the roosters we had to make a planned stop at someone who was selling these wooden shoes. Found them on a sales site and I have been wanting a pair for a while now. These were real cheap and possibly in my size. If not they'd make a nice ornament. When we arrived it turned out the lady in question had bought these shoes in the Netherlands during the late 60's or early 70's. My vintage... and she was having a yard sale. So some other stuff followed us home as well AND we now have an address where we can buy square bales!! Hence the boot of our car looking like a farmer's truck or pickup! The only thing is.... we still do not have chickens! Both the parties selling those, and which we had contacted, backed out for various reasons. With one the chickens had become a lot less favourable socially or had begun brooding again and the other one took ages to respond. I sure do hope we can settle things fast with either one or both, since our guys are lonely!! We'll only keep 2 of them. The rest are walking dinners.....

Thursday, August 4, 2016

the final sprint

We've had a good day's rain, which means that the remaining flowers are prodiúcing nectar.
Our "ladies" have begun their final sprint, before their season comes to an end...
We will be checking their progress and status one more time next week, before we will start feeding them in order to stock up.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Gardening and homesteading update

Our gardening season isn't exactly going as we had hoped so far and we are learning some pretty hard lessons.
Hard as in nothing we had sown on the spot has germinated. Nothing. Greens beans, salad, turnip, endive (Cichorium endivia), spinach... Nothing came up. Well, 2 or 3 spinach seeds did, but that was about it. We are having a whole lot of forest ants in the garden. Maybe they collect the seeds???
It has been very dry so far as well. Lake water levels are about 30cm lower than usual and rain has been absent, except for the occasional heavy showers on the occasional rainy day we had so far.
I did mention before that the ground is like concrete, so the lesson about composting has been learned here already. The places where I applied the raised bed-principle fair much better. Here the plants look far less parched and pathetic and are positively flourishing. However here we are facing other issues. The kale species, whilst not being completely eaten...yet... look like they have been shot with buckshot. Not a single leaf intact and no heads in sight, yet either. The potatoes look miserably dry as well, but our accommodations for watering them are not adequate yet. We can pump up lakewater, but that is very cold and I do get the feeling our plants do not like stone cold showers. Which brings me to our next mishap; the greenhouse with peppers and tomatoes. We have learned that we need to water those much more frequently, but without a hose. We need to devise a solution for watering them around the base. The peppers are being attacked by some insect that drills holes in them too, but I have not yet identified that bug(ger). I am reconsidering growing these crops as it is as they take up a lot of room, require a lot of care with little to show for (now).
Beans, peas.... they are a miserable bunch. No harvest there this year, other than the stuff we can use for resowing next year. But!! The Californian poquito beans I got are growing well and look promissing! I hope they ripen before the cold season comes in.

The radishes we planted are completely useless. They went into bloom practically overnight. So we are turning this mishap into another lesson; how to collect and store seeds until the next season.
The broccoli I reported going into bloom turned out to NOT be broccoli at all! It was rapeseed. Someone messed up at the seed selling company, filling satchels with the wrong seeds! We do have 2-3 broccoli plants, so I am guessing they mixed up the seeds. Lesson for us; keep track of what we sow!!

What is doing fine so far, then? The onions and garlic! They look amazingly well. Onions nice and round. Camomil did amazingly well too. The companion planting thing I have little to say about, other than it looks good. A whole lot better than boring rows of similar crops. The places we planted a bit more tightly reduce the need for weeding considerably.
Squash and pumpkin are doing well too as is the corn. The 3 sisters work very wel together. No sign of pests and very little weeds. The same as with the poquitos here; I hope the season will last long enough.
And then there's the fruit. What an abundance this year! Amazing! Raspberries, blue berries, gooseberries, both red and white... loads of 'em! But sadly I must admit we did not pick many so far. We simply lack the time. Working, building and all the everyday chores make that we simple do not have enough waking hours to take care of all that abundance. We did not even get around to go out and pick strawberries!!! I am really hoping on being able to make up for that the next week, when I'll be off work for 6 days........
There's another lesson in this for us; take better care pf the chaos of summer. We need to plan and get organised!

Well, not all is lost yet.........

As far as the homesteading goes.... there isn't much to report there yet. No fancy jam 'n jelly-posts, no preservation going on. However the bees seem to be thriving and soon we'll be helping them prepare for winter. The construction of a large chicken coop and run is well under way and we plan/hope to have all that up and running very shortly.