First Bottle!!!

Bottled my first jar of Walnut Syrup this evening.  It is a beautiful light amber color.  It is a thick syrup, maybe over cooked, but I’m not really sure.  The taste is…  I don’t know.  It’s different than maple syrup.  It’s good.  It’s sweet.  Not real strong.  I put it in one of the 8 ounce bottles I just bought specifically for syrup this year.  I don’t know if you can see it in the picture but it is thick of enough that it holds bubbles in suspension.

Walnut Syrup

Walnut Syrup

The walnut sap came from a woods at a place I will call “Camp”.  It is where I tapped the sycamore trees and some maples too.  A friend of mine works at the camp and she was interested tapping trees herself this year.  So I helped her out identifying trees and going through the process so she could make her own syrup and in return I was able to tap some trees on the camp’s property.  I have collected about 2.5 gallons of walnut sap, which became the 8 ounce of syrup and a little over a gallon of maple sap.

I’m waiting to bottle maple syrup until I have a good amount.  I bought a filter this year to help me get the maple sands out easier and make a clearer syrup.  But the filter absorbs some of the syrup.  Right now I could probably get 3-4 eight ounce bottles of finished syrup but I will probably lose a half bottle in the filter material.  If I wait until I can do 10 bottles, I still only lose a half bottle worth.  However, it could be a while before I get enough sap for 10 bottles of syrup because the weather doesn’t look very good for sap to run this coming week…


Grow Your Subversive Plot

A man has a plot.  A subversive plot.  He is plotting to change the world.  And he wants all of us to help us in his plot.  Watch THE PLOT here.  What is he plotting, you may ask?  How am I to help a stranger in his plot to change the world?

The simple answer is… GARDENING!  We all can help by taking whatever little (or big) plot of land you have and growing food to eat.  The corner of the yard where it’s hard to mow, tear up the grass and plant some tomatoes.  Don’t want veggies in your front yard?  Plant fruit trees.  Blueberries are a nice shrub that comes in a variety of sizes.  Have bad soil? Build a raised bed.  Even if you are low on cash you can find materials to repurpose into raised beds.

I recently saw a quote from Joel Salatin that surprised me:

“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”

In less than 70 years we have gone from producing most of our food or purchasing it fresh from farmers nearby to buying it all from a concrete box, where even “fresh” food could have been picked weeks ago, half-way around the world.  Meat pumped up with water, wrapped in plastic, on a styrofoam tray?  How about fresh from a butcher instead?

The food revolution has been started.  So I am asking you all to join in, help out, eat locally, or, GROW YOUR OWN!

New Year Goals

We are already a few days into 2015 but I would like to wish everyone a happy new year. I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year and the one that is upcoming over the last few days, trying to figure out my goals for the upcoming year. Looking back at my 2014 Goals, I didn’t accomplish any of the things I had written. There are reasons for each with money and time spent elsewhere being the two biggest factors. Another reason I have been stuck in a rut with some of the projects is because I didn’t know if I would be staying here at all. Up until I moved back for my new job, I was thinking about selling the place to focus on getting out of debt. Now, I think I will be around for a while, but the thought of selling the place hasn’t left.

So, big projects like a new greenhouse, permanent chicken coop and a nice dock for the pond, are not on my priority list. Yes, we could really use a new coop, especially since Heather bought a bunch of new chickens a couple weeks ago to produce more eggs and hopefully keep up with the demand she has had at work. We have only gotten two eggs so far out of 8 new hens that are supposed to be laying, but I think the stress of the move and weather are a big factor in that. By springtime the other 5 (hopefully) hens she got should be laying as well so we should have more than enough eggs then.

As for my 2015 goals, I’m trying to stay simple this year. And simple is one of my goals. Simplifying my life that is. Easy as it sounds, it may be difficult to do.  A tiny house has been on my mind lately, with part of the thought being that I have too much stuff if I ever wanted to live in one.  I’ve started to downsize the amount of stuff that I have by listing things I don’t need or want on Craigslist. It will be an ongoing process but will hopefully bring in a few extra dollars towards my next goal, paying down debt. Between school loans, credit cards and my truck, my life would be a lot simpler with a few less creditors. I’m still listening to Dave Ramsey and have already started (or attempting anyways) to use cash only as part of my monthly budget. The next step is to save my $1000 emergency fund, followed by paying whatever extra I have every month towards the lowest balance loan. I’m hoping to get rid of my credit cards and maybe my smallest school loan this year. The truck doesn’t have a sign in the window yet, but it will be for sale as soon as I can get a cheap car or truck.

I would also like to clean up and fix up the property as much as I can on a limited budget. Cleaning the pond is something I can do by hand, even though it isn’t much fun. The muck, which is made up of all the dead leaves, algae and whatever else has fallen into the pond over the years, should make a good fertilizer for my garden. Continuing to build the garden soil, build raised beds from materials I have laying around and maybe try a hugelkultur type bed or two with the sticks and branches laying around are also inexpensive tasks I hope to accomplish this year.

In list form, here are my goals for 2015, which includes a few that I haven’t talked about yet, but shouldn’t need much explanation.

  1. Simplify life
  2. Save $1000 emergency fund
  3. Pay off debt
  4. Lose 40 pounds
  5. Sell/donate  unneeded/unwanted things
  6. Cycle instead of drive
  7. Buy cheaper vehicle/ sell truck
  8. Volunteer
  9. Clean pond
  10. Build raised beds/ build garden soil
  11. Cook more/ stop eating out
  12. Take a multi day hiking camping and/or canoeing trip
  13. Sell more eggs

And one from last year that I want to work harder towards…

14.  Produce at least 25% of food requirements here.  I don’t think I quite met this goal last year, even though I was able to put up more food than I expected from the garden, especially with not being here a good portion of the summer.  I also had the 15 meat birds, some of which are still in the freezer, along with some frozen corn and green beans (soon to be dinner).  Meat chickens and rabbits will contribute towards my protein needs this year and with any luck I’ll have a bountiful harvest with enough to can for the winter.

New Chicks

I would like to start off by introducing you to the newest members of our flock here on The Rural Side.  Say “Hello” to 15 Cornish Cross chicks.IMG_0371Now that the introductions are over, I want to say that you shouldn’t get too cozy with these little guys and gals.  In about eight weeks they will be heading off to the butcher to provide us with the first meat raised here.  I picked them up at Tractor Supply today for a buck a chick, marked down because they are a little over a week old and not as cute as the other chicks anymore.  They also had some other chicks for a dollar as well, but I don’t know if I want to add more egg layers to our flock yet.  If I get the new coop started soon and find some steady customers to buy the eggs, I might get some more.

If you are wondering, no, Heather has not even touched these yet, except to carry the boxes out of the store.  I should lock her out of the garage where their brooder is currently, but thats also where the rabbits are and she usually takes care of those.  She has said that she doesn’t know if she can eat something we raise.  She gets emotionally attached to any little creature she sees.  However, she knows that the cornish cross is bred to be a quick grower, prone to leg issues and heart issues from growing so fast, and that it would be better to butcher them before they suffer.  But to be safe, I want to keep her from holding them and I especially want to keep her from naming any!

I had planned on getting some Freedom Rangers or maybe a heritage breed that is good for meat this summer, which I still might if I get the new coop built soon (a common theme, I know). Freedom Rangers are a breed that are supposed to be better foragers.  I would like to be able to have pasture raised chicken that aren’t completely reliant on me providing them food, instead eating bugs and grass for most of their diet.  I’ve read that some people have been able to raise cornish cross that way but others say they haven’t had any success.  My main reason for raising them on pasture is to cut cost.  Compared to supermarket chicken, home raised chicken will probably be more expensive.  That I am okay with because I know how my chickens will be raised, what feed they are given and how they are treated during their short time span on this earth.  But wanting to be self sustainable here as well as frugal, having to buy a lot of food from the store doesn’t really work.


Coyote Spotting

We had two big coyotes go through the back side of the property this morning.  This is the first time I have seen any larger wildlife in the yard.  We have had plenty of deer tracks along the back side of the pond and a few in the garden but haven’t seen any deer actually inside our fence.  The coyotes worry me more than deer do because I would like to allow my chickens to free range and I view coyotes, fox and raccoons as threats to the chickens.  The coyotes were moving through at about 10am, which is when chickens would be out during warmer weather.  We had our little d’uccle rooster eaten by a creature back at the beginning of summer and I trapped and killed several raccoons after that to help protect our flock.  If I had a rifle this morning I would have shot one, or both coyotes if I could have, to help keep our dogs, cat, and chickens safe as well as the neighbors that have dogs and chickens.

Now it’s time for some breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Later I think I might warm up the garage and try to do some woodworking.  It’s been too long since I have made any sawdust.  I have my mom’s canoe to finish up, another canoe I am milling the strips for and a door I need to get stained for in the house.  I will have to post about my woodworking sometime soon…

Until later!

Chuck on The Rural Side

A Productive Night

I was feeling crafty today so I picked up some duck cloth to do a little sewing project I have been meaning to do for a while now.  We have been carrying in firewood all winter using only our arms, which is awkward going through the door and leaves a trail of bark through the house.  So I decided to sew a firewood carrier.  I got the edges all sewed before trying to put on the handles when my needle broke.  Of course I don’t have another so I will just have to finish it up tomorrow.

I also made some sunflower butter.  I had been wanting some cashew or almond butter but they are more expensive then I like to spend.  I was going to make one of them from scratch when I saw that sunflower kernels are a lot cheaper than the nuts.  Here is the recipe I used for my sunflower butter.

  • 1 lb of sunflower kernels- I used roasted, unsalted
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil, plus or minus

In a food processor put in the sunflower kernels and salt.  Process on high until the kernels are about the consistency of flour.  Add the olive oil and continue processing on high.  Stop every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  It will turn creamy and smoother the more you go. If you want it creamier you can add more olive oil.  Honey or sugar can be used to make it a little sweeter if you like.  Below is a picture of the finished product- perfect for putting on toast, celery or wherever you might use peanut butter.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

That’s all for tonight, see ya later!