So far our CSA sign ups are blowing my mind. It’s like we suddenly gained some cred, which means so very much to me. Whether it’s word of mouth, or people keeping track of our farm activities on Facebook- I mean total strangers are sending us deposits and payments to raise food for them! What a humbling feeling, how invigorating and exciting.
Meanwhile, it’s still hardcore winter. What the heck?! We got a ton more snow with this last storm. Our woodpile is almost gone! In the livingroom, though, it’s spring- the many flats of onion sprouts are almost in need of a haircut, as we’ve still got a foot of snow covering the garden soil, they’ve got some waiting to do. The pimento and jalapeno pepper babies are fattening their stems and starting their second and third “true” leaves, and I’ve begun potting them up into their “big girl” pots. The scallions, marjoram and sage are sprouting, as are the green peppers, and about to emerge; kale, chard, china choy, broccoli, buttercrunch lettuce, hansen letuce and an italian variety called “gentilina.” As soon as the next compost block defrosts, more and more and more plants will be started in the house. I think I had arugula sprouting in the hophouse this time last year! We’re holding off starting the tomatoes too soon, as they grow by leaps and bounds, not as tame as the pepper plants. Tomatillos are another one we LOVED growing last year, and those plants get insanely huge, so best to wait to start them until the light of spring is visible at the end of the tunnel.
The geese are going bonkers with breeding and egg laying, but the number goes up and down each day – each goose does not lay an egg a day. We don’t know which geese are older and might not be laying at all, and we don’t yet know what the overall fertility is, as an egg can’t turn into a baby unless some sperm was involved before the egg was laid. We’ve filled our two incubators and I have a few local people lined up to help us incubate, and if they have success, they get to keep half the babies they hatch out. In my opinion, this is a better deal than investing in a huge $600+ incubator to incubate all our eggs ourselves. At least for this year. We’re still getting our feet wet with geese. If it goes well and we have a good market for pastured goose, then it will make sense to invest in that jumbo incubator.
Our little ducklings are growing and thriving, their adult feathers are going to be poking out pretty soon. They are voracious little ones, and eating alot, you wouldn’t believe how much food and water goes into that brooder each day. In 2 weeks they should be ready to move outdoors, if winter has decided to leave us by then! They’ll be living in our newly designed (and yet to be built because the hay wagon base is buried in snow drifts) mobile duck co-op, and we’ll see how that goes.
We’d applied for a 2013 SARE grant, to build and research our pastured/mobile coop duck trial, but just found out we didn’t get the funding. We’re doing it anyways. I guess the only difference is since WE’RE funding it, all the super awesome techniques we develop with this model will belong to us, not the government. Take that suckas.
The other super exciting news- as of today, we are officially licensed as egg processors in the State of Wisconsin! The thought of having the inspection done was freaking the crap out of us, but we finally went ahead and made the appointment. It went well,and I am super proud of my husband for making our egg room up to par! Now, if winter can move along….we are READY TO GO!
On my to-do list for the last 2 months has been “Make Soap.” As usual, I put it off, as I just don’t “love” making it that much. The process is never THAT bad, but all the stirring kind of hurts my hands, and it’s against my nature to get sit somewhere for too long. Soapmaking requires so much time sitting there stirring and waiting for the soap to trace.
Even though it does NOT feel like spring, the realization that our CSA shares begin in a bit over a month got my soap-making butt in gear today. Homemade soap needs at least 3 weeks to cure before it’s used, so I’m cutting it close. There are still a few boxes of soaps from last year, probably 150 bars or so. But that will not last for long…. by my calculations, we’ll need over 600 bars for our CSA shares this year!
I’d saved some milk in the freezer last year and it works perfectly. Almost too perfectly- my soap batch #1 suddenly traced WAY quicker than ever before in my soapmaking history! “Tracing” is when the molecules of the liquid (milk) and the fats (coconut oil and olive oil) morph into soap, via a secret combination of sodium hydroxide (lye,) aggitation (my stirring) and temperature. Once a batch of soap in the works begins to trace, you want to get into the soapmold ASAP as it wants to begin setting immediately. What happened to me was a chunky looking blob got swirled up frantically as I tried to get the essential oils to incorporate at the very end, and a bit too late in the tracing process. Yikes. I think the hyper trace must have been due to the cool temps outside and the fact that I was sitting the soap stirring pot in a snow bank! Ya Think? It was a shock, and I hope it sets up ok. Sometimes an unusual trace means I end up with the glycerin separating out and a mess on my hands when I go to cut the bars up the following day.
Batch #1 got Star Anise and Litsea Cubeba (a citrusy smelling flower) Essential Oils, with a bit of paprika for color. Need a cute sounding name to describe this biscotti-esque batch.
Batch #2 I watched more carefully so I didn’t miss the Trace beginning, and I think I caught it in time. I added Eucalyptus and Clementine Essential Oils to this batch. “Koala Clementine?”
The goats are looking pretty preggy, and soon I will be on milking patrol, although I am planning on taking it easy in that department this year. Working out a deal with the nursing kids is my plan. But I’ll need milk soon….lots more soap to make……….