Dandelions

Beautiful wonderful spring and all that it brings with it…the joy of children’s floral chains and small bouquets of ‘weeds.’ Yards full of yellow remind me that summer is just around the corner and oh so thankful the pollinators are back! What would we do with out those beautiful bees and butterflies?

Our fenced orchard area is filled with freakishly large dandelions! I’m not kidding! The grass in there is lush and the weeds are mammoth! I think it has to do with the consintration of animal droppings over the past few years! Either way I’ve been holding off mowing.

This past weekend was beautiful so mike went out with the girls and picked many of the flower heads. (I’ve seen the buckets full, but still there are soooooo many left) Last year Mike made dandelion wine. Yep, that’s real! It’s a thing, and we make it! Also a real thing (apparently) dandelion jelly! It tastes a bit like honey, and smells amazing! Mike has the heads steeping for the wine and he made the jelly last night. The girls are over the moon excited to have it in their lunch tomorrow! I love how excited they get about the projects we do.

I also need to get out and gather some dandelion to make an oil infusion for salves. I used it to make one last year and we really liked it. I will be sure to blog about that process when I am able to get to the project!

If you find yourself out at the Ebed House be sure to ask Mike about the wine or Jelly. He is always happy to share his projects!

Upcycling, The down side

Well folks, we uncovered a bit of a rats nest here at the Ebed House. Some of you may read this post and pass judgement on our foolishness…I will own it. We weren’t real smart. A few years ago we decided to start keeping chickens, and why not? We had land and the most adorable little out building that would make for a great coop. It was even in a wonderful location, not too far from the house, but just far enough.

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We have had two years of blissfully happy free ranging chickens. We have learned so much from and about them. Like the fact that a good free range hen will not only eat all kinds of bugs and ticks, but on occasion she may enjoy a snake or hunt down a mouse! Our smallest hen was our best mouser! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. A few months ago our flock taught us our hardest lesson to date.

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This is Floppy. She was one of my favorite hens. She was a faithful layer with a great personality. Floppy was not much of a mouser, but she could take out a grasshopper like pro. (a skill she learned later in life). Floppy came down with Wry Neck. Wry Neck is when a bird’s head turns upside down, the bird can even fall over backwards…it got really bad when she was afraid. I removed her from the coop, put her in a quiet place and started her on a special diet. Then I researched. What was Wry Neck? Why did she have it? Could she get better? Did we have to put her down? Would the other birds get sick? The questions were endless…

The news wasn’t great. Some people have luck with an egg and vitamin E diet and a quiet restful place, but nothing is a guarantee, and there were endless causes…everything from genetics or sickness to a bad peck on the head. How do you treat something when you don’t know what the root cause is? So, I started to pray…yep, prayer in the practical everyday parts of life.

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The weeks went on and Floppy did not get better. We had to put her down. My sadness was mixed with confusion at wanting to really know what was going on with our flock. I ruled out the likelihood of genetics as well as a bad peck on the head. She was not a breed prone to those types of issues and at 2 and a half years old she could handle a good pecking. That left sickness or her environment. She was a healthy bird…no signs of any illness in the coop at all…that mixed with the nagging reminder that we never did a lead paint test on the coop before we remodeled it…WHAT? Why didn’t we do that?

Mike picked up a lead test on the way home from work….there was no question…lead. Then began the struggle to figure out what to do. We had 10, seemingly healthy birds…I went back to researching. The only way to get any real info on how bad our flock had been exposed would have been to do testing on each bird…we love our animals, but we were not going to run a bunch of expensive tests to find out that they had to be put down. I am sure that seems heartless to some…but it was the decision we had to make. We do not have another coop or the finances to just purchase one. Even if we tested the birds and sold the healthy ones we could not make back the money from testing and I didn’t want any chance of passing on lead issues to another family.

We put down the flock. I thanked each bird for the joy she brought and told our roo that I was proud of his protective instincts and then Mike taught me how to put down a chicken…The horable business was done in 10 minutes and a hard lesson was learned. I hope that our hard lesson can be learned by others….When you upcycle something old, make sure you know what it’s made of!

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We have been discussing what to do…Should we clean up the lead paint in the coop and start over there? Should we start over and build a movable coop? Should we just hold off a few years until we have a better idea of how we plan to use the land…maybe build a coop in the goat barn. I resigned myself to holding out a few years because I don’t think it is smart to put the money we would need to into the out building. Mike, on the other hand, has every intention of building a movable coop.

So we continued to pray, asking the Lord for some direction…one way or the other…that week I received a check in the mail…an unexpected gift with the note…’just for fun.’ Movable coop it is! I placed our order for chicks the next day and they will be here in mid March!

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We have learned a lot in the past 2 years, and I am excited to start with chicks this spring! The twins are excited to take care of them too. There will be many photos to come! We placed an order for 25 straight run chicks. Gold Laced Wyandottes, Plymouth Bard Rocks, Easter eggers and a mix of Brahmas. We will end up with some roos to butcher in the fall and maybe a few extra pullets to sell.

Applepolusa and other fun…

It is fall in Minnesota and when you live on a homestead and the hubster also works a full-time job….there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done! It is these moments when I breathe a little easier feeling the deep thankfulness that we haven’t taken on milk goats…..yet.

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The harvest of our garden was wonderful, but it also took place all at once….thank you MN frost! The growing season here is just so short. However, what a great opportunity to learn about how to preserve and use items that are not fully ripe. I have boxes of tomatoes in the basement currently turning from green and yellow to shades of orange and red…if the mold doesn’t get them first…..one more argument for a rootseller in the basement! Yes please!

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A few weeks ago I lacto-fermented carrots and cucumbers. I left a few of the carrots in the garden to continue growing and wowsa did they get big!! I also did a dry run on our apples. we have two mature apple trees and one ripens about a month before the other. I made apple sauce and thought about plans for applepolusa! I didn’t make enough plans….we Just got done with our Saturday of apple processing and although I am deeply thankful for all that we can store away it was a lot of work and next year we will plan to do it differently.

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The men pressed over 60 gallons of cider. 20 gallons are being fermented! Oh I am looking forward to hard cider!

 

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The ladies made and canned over 20 gallons of apple sauce. we made some apple chips in the dehydrator, canned more apple pie filling then I kept track of and this week I made some apple butter because we still have apples! How do we still have apples????

 

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We only have 2 mature apple trees at this point….the men went nuts! I am so glad they did! Mike, Nate and one of the boys picked enough apples to fill the bed of our truck! wow! Nate went door to door asking people with trees if we could use their apples. It has always bothered me how many apples don’t get used around here. So thankful for the guys and all their hard work picking the apples ahead of time!

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