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Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to freeze Zucchini

I found several large zucchinis this week so I decided that was a sign that it is time to freeze some zukes for winter use. I did not freeze any zukes last year and that was a mistake as I like to use them in pasta sauces throughout the year, including the 7 or 8 months we do not grow zucchini.

Here is how I freeze zukes.

You will need the following:
A large pan with lid for the boiling water
Slotted spoon
A large bowl or pot for cold water
Salad spinner
A cookie sheet
chest or upright freezer
Plastic freezer bags

Take any large (up to 18 inches) zucchini and cut it lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and than cut it into pieces. I usually cut it into 1" cubes but other shapes work too. While you are cutting up the squash put a lidded pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil. When the zukes are deseeded and cut up and the water is boiling put about 1 cup (2 or 3 handfuls, depending on the size of you hands. Larger hands need fewer handfuls) of the zukes into the water and blanch for 1 minute. Remove from water using the slotted spoon and plunge into cold water. You can add ice to the water. I don't, instead I replace the water as soon as it gets warm with cold water from the tap (if it has been hot-above 95F- for several weeks than I will use ice as the well water will not be cold enough). A couple of changes of water will get the squash cool enough for our purposes. When cool, load into a salad spinner and spin dry and put on a cookie sheet. Repeat this until all the squash is blanched, cooled and on the cookie sheet(s). Put cookie sheet(s) into the freezer for at least 10 hours.

Frozen zucchini in the freezer ready to be bagged

When squash is frozen remove from coolie sheet(s) and put into labeled/dated plastic freezer bags, put the full bags back into the freezer and you are done

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More SSE Drama

Here is the latest in the Seed savers Exchange vs Kent Whealy Saga

http://www.patnsteph.net/blogpics/Kent_Whealy_Letter_July2009.pdf

Ohio 127 Yard Sale

I got an email in my in-box the other day inquiring about the 127 yard sale. This woman wondered if it was worth traveling the Ohio section of the route. She could find nothing on the web about Ohio and where the hot spots are. Not even the www.127saleohio.com site had anything on it. This surprised me as they had some information last year.

So I sent her this reply:

I can give a rough run down of the 127 sale in Preble , Darke and Mercer Counties. Okay, going north from the Butler County in Preble County there is very little until you hit Camden which has a big sale, 30 or so vendors. Than there is not much until you get to Eaton which has family run sales around town. You get to us a mile north of town. We will have 3 or 4 vendors (maybe more) including incredible BBQ so make plans to stop for lunch or dinner (before 6pm as that is when the BBQ folks leave and they never set up on Sundays) And bathroom facilities (most places do not and this can be a problem for salers). Than there are sporadic sales going north into Darke County. The VFW in West Manchester usually has a good group of sellers and than not much until you get north of Greenville and hit North Star (home of Annie Oakley). About 3 miles west of there is Eldora raceway which had around 150 vendors last year and I heard from many yard salers it was worth getting off of 127 to go check out. 6 miles south of Celina (Mercer County) is Niekamps-last year they had over 100 vendors.


I have no idea what will be the state of things in west central Ohio this year. I know we are selling Thursday through Saturday 8am til 7pm or so. We are planning on having the BBQ folks back as well as Jules the knife lady. There may be a couple of other vendors as well, but no confirmations yet. Though Boulder belt has no plans to be really open on Sunday August 9th, the knife people do plan on it. So there will be a reason stop if you are traveling by us on Sunday

If you are looking for a place to set up we have spaces for rent. $10 a day for a ten foot wide space and you get Sunday for free

Friday, July 10, 2009

Breakfast Time

video

Week old chickens at breakfast

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Education of the Chicken

I was out feeding and watering the chickens, who are all 4 days old as of yesterday, and I noticed they had figured out that insects are good to eat. This is a good sign that this batch of chickens will do well on pasture. That they will eat more than the grain they are given 2 to 3 times a day. That they will eat various bugs and lots of greens such as red and white clover (clover is amazingly high in protein, around 18%). That they will move their bodies around.

Most chickens raised on pasture are in a brooder house for the first 4 to 5 weeks of their lives. they are not outside on pasture and thus miss out on that important window of opportunity to learn to eat things other than chicken feed. From watching hens raise chicks I have figured out that the first 5 or 6 days are an important learning time and again at around 2 to 3 weeks they have another big learning spurt. Chicks brooded indoors miss both of those opportunities and when they are put on pasture for the last 3 to 4 weeks of their lives they do little more than sit around in the shade until grain is brought to to them. Than they slowly waddle over to the chicken feed and gorge themselves.

Ours, because they are out on pasture from day one (we rig up a heat lamp in one of the tractors to keep them warm enough) they are physically active throughout their short lives. They eat a lot of natural food (up to 25% of their diet is bugs and pasture-because they are a hybrid they really do need the rest of their diet to be the 25% protein feed ration they get or they will start to die).

It is fascinating to watch them learn how to be chickens. It is amazing how much seems to be innate behavior. The pullets, even though they are only a few days old, know to scratch in the dirt to find bugs. The boys are not as quick to catch on to this behavior but they will in another few days. I have also seen them start learning to fly (an idea that will be aborted in a few weeks when they get too big for their wings). They seem to be at their happiest when trying to fly (though eating is a close second). for the next 2 weeks they will have fully fledged wings that will allow then to get a few inches off the ground for up to 2 feet. That reality will come crashing down and their bodies will get too big for flight (but they will still extend and flap their wings and run around like children pretending to fly).

I had forgotten how much fun having chickens is. Of course, with the threat of NAIS Looming I doubt we will get laying hens again and we may have to resort to killing our own birds in the future so we can fly under the NAIS radar. Since we do not intend to raise poultry for public sale that may work for us. Slaughtering chickens is not the nicest job in the world, especially when you do not have all the equipment such as plucker and the proper knives. I would really like to avoid having to do my own killing and cleaning but the fact is that all processors will be requiring NAIS ID numbers in order to start a job and if we do not get our premises registered and the chickens ID numbers that we cannot get them processed at any state or USDA inspected plant. So it will likely be home processing in the future.

Perhaps NAIS will become such a white elephant the gummint will dump the whole idea and we will not have to be so hassled. But I am not holding my breath.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Chickens!

We got chicks today. This is the first time in almost two years we have raised poultry. Here is a video of their first day on Boulder Belt pasture
video