Saturday, August 16, 2014


Jet lagged from Cleveland 

Chicks arrived on the thirteenth of August from Meyer Hatchery. The post office called at about 6:30 a.m. and left a cryptic message that I was somehow able to decipher. The post office is very nearby and I drove around there at around 8:30 to pick them up.

The people at the post office were pretty tickled with the little peeps chirping through the box and actually checked my i.d. before they handed them off to me.

Pit Bull & chicks
Their home for now is in the garage in a kiddy pool. There is a coop already made that they will move into once they are big enough.

I wasn't very keen on ordering chickens through the mail but it turns out that it is so commonplace that it works well enough.

We ordered six pullets or hens. They are mixed brown egg layers so we don't know exactly which kind they are yet. I believe that one is a Buff Orpington.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pond H2O

The pond has been a learning experience all year long. I nearly killed all of the ten goldfish I put into it early on by not aerating it properly.

Now there are not only more goldfish, but different species of fish in the pond. There are also a couple of frogs too, Winder and Tucker.

It attracted a lot of dragon flies and I do not have a clue where they go to at night. I found a drowned chipmunk one day. I've gone thru three pumps as well.

The plants I put into the water divided ten fold without any interaction. The pond has taken on a life of it's own, so to speak.

Birds drink from it early in the day and the dog all day.

Liquid H2O is a pretty rare thing. It's usually either too cold or there's not enough pressure to have liquid H2O. Earth is pretty much a giant pond floating in space.

Most of the H2O in our solar system is orbiting Saturn in it's rings, as ice.
The amount of water in Saturn's rings could fill the Earth's oceans 26 million times.

If there's liquid water there's life, guaranteed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


We began canning some tomato sauce recently.

We canned about twenty pounds of tomatoes and ended up with twenty pints of tomato sauce.
It's a pretty simple process. A propane burner works well when bringing a large pot of water to a boil. You can do it on the stove but it takes longer.

The first step is to bring a large pot of water up to boiling. Cut an X in the bottom of the tomatoes before tossing them in the boiling water to remove the skins. Just a couple of minutes is all it takes.

Remove the tomatoes and set them in a colander to cool off for a few minutes so that you can handle them. When they are cool enough the skins will be easy to remove.

After the skins are removed put all of the tomatoes in a large canning pot. They will need to cook down for a couple of hours.

While they are boiling they need to be stirred often. The tomato sauce will reduce quite a bit and become more concentrated. How much you reduce them is up to you. The more you reduce them the more the depth of flavor they'll have.

After the sauce is reduced you will probably want to remove any large chunks and throw them in a blender and then add them back into the large pot.

The jars and lids need to be given a hot water bath before canning. After they are removed from the water, fill each of the jars, not quite filling them completely.

Place the lids on but don't tighten them all the way. Depending on the size of your pot you can process eight to twelve jars at a time.

Submerge the jars into a pot of boiling water and be sure they are covered at least one inch by water. Let them sit for about five minutes.

After that remove them and let them sit out. In a few minutes you will start to hear the lids popping. This tells you that the vacuum has formed in the jar.

This process doesn't take very long and if you are sitting around on a weekend you can do this in a couple of hours and drink beer at the same time.

No matter what, your own canned tomato sauce tastes better than the store bought stuff. Tomato sauce is the base of spaghetti, chili, brunswick stew, chicken cacciatore, tortilla soup, etc.
In the depths of winter, homemade tomato sauce is special because in reality you are canning a little bit of summer in the process. That canned summer leaps out of the jar when you open it in February. Honestly.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Holy Shitake!

Lentinula edodes
Today our inoculated maple log had an abundance of shitake mushrooms! The one's from the store are usually grown in sawdust and lack the depth of flavor of those grown on logs.

It's rained a lot lately and the fungi are blooming.

We harvested about one pound of shitakes in the morning.

Later on they went into a saute pan with butter. They are delicious. It doesn't get any better than fresh, free shitakes!

  • Shitakes are supposed to be good for your immune system and cardiovascular system. 
  • They are a good source of iron
  • Source of B vitamins
  • Anti-cancer

Tuesday, August 5, 2014



Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is an herb with myriad beneficial properties.

It has a very long tap root and therefore mines deep into the soil for minerals that lots of plants cannot access. For this reason, it is known as a dynamic accumulator.

It's been called "knitbone" for centuries because of it's amazing ability to heal wounds and mend broken bones.

It's easy to grow and propagates well from root cuttings. Comfrey is very mucilage, or gummy when you break open stem. It is demulcent, expectorant and astringent.

The leaves are very large, like football size. However, they dry out quickly once harvested, nearly overnight. You can put the leaves in water for about a week and they breakdown to make a very pungent liquid fertilizer. The stems are stringy and rubbery, they will stretch quite a bit before breaking.

Much has been made of the link to liver damage from pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which comfrey contains in small quantities.

The oft cited study from 1968, force fed rats highly concentrated doses of these alkaloids for months on end. When the rats wouldn't eat the powderized food any more they injected them with it. The plant used in the study was not comfrey, it was Senecio. There's some fascinating language in the document for those that care to read it.

Based on these studies the FDA in 2001 issued a strongly worded statement advising that the internal use of comfrey as a medicinal could lead to liver disease. Foods that can contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids like milk, eggs, honey and grains are not regulated. Herbs bad, food good.

It's doubtful that pyrrolizidine alkaloids consumption will ever be a contender for the number one spot for causing liver disease, that title remains safely with the reigning champion, alcohol.