The Aftermath- how we are making our chickens safe again.

When tragedy strikes on the homestead, you don’t really get the option to just give up. You still have animals relying on you for their everyday needs. After we lost 10 of our 16 chickens to a bobcat this last friday morning, we knew we needed to make a some big changes in order to protect our survivors and all other future livestock. So we came up with a 5 point plan, a few of which we’ve already started.

1. We have already called the game warden to become aware of our rights in protecting our livestock- First and foremost we have to prove knowledge of what animal we are dealing with. If it was a bobcat, we’re free and clear to shoot to kill if we have to. If its a lynx, we’re looking at trapping and rehoming somewhere VERY far away. This leads directly to-

2. Setting up cameras and motion detector lights to monitor and record all activity. Also, possibly going a bit overboard and buying a new 32 inch tv to watch monitors at all times. And hooking the cameras to our iphone to watch when away as well. BUT we’ve already caught a fox and possibly the bobcat both sniffing around again. It was at night while we were asleep, and the girls were locked up, but STILL.

3. Clean .22 rifle, bb rifle and air rifles- buy ammunition and have mrgillis teach me how to shoot – this is mostly for trying to scare the damn things away first. But if that should fail, we have to protect our animal family. Also, make sure said guns are in safe place, but easily accessible. We have a wall mounted rack on its way.

4. Check out chain link fencing with roof capabilities – find scrap tin roofing and buy clear pvc sheets from Amish. Construct superfence come this spring when the ground is thawed – dig foot deep/6 inch wide trench to lay welded wire in to create below ground barrier, then attach welded wire fence to chain link sections. Put on frame for a roof, do one half of roof in tin and other half in clear pvc sheets so the girls can get some sun or shade when they need it. Also, put henhouse directly on ground to save on fencing around bottom.

5. This spring/summer clear our immediate backyard of all birch, spruce, pine, brush, bushes and leave only beneficial to us trees, maples apples and other wild edibles. This was the plan anyway, but we feel a bigger sense of urgency to make it a priority.

Finally, I have given myself this weekend to be as upset as I need to be. I’ve eaten, drank, smoked, talked and cried my feelings from friday into last night, sunday. Today, is a new day, a new time. We will always love the hens we lost. They were all full of personality, love and most of them were good at cuddling. They gave us eggs, entertainment, a certain sort of stress relief and a sense of “hey we can raise things!” type of pride. Those memories and moments are an integral part to our story- Even the terrible way we lost them. Life is such. Time to focus on the future.

Until next time, have a wicked good day.

 

Exciting news on the homestead! 

Yesterday, we placed an order with Hoover’s Hatcheries for 15, day old chicks to be shipped to us the week of March 13th!  We are very excited, because CHICKENS and FREE SHIPPING! Our entire order of 15 female chicks, with Mareks vaccinations for all, was 65 bucks and change!

And free shipping! Like, we really cannot get over that… Other hatcheries that sell to Maine charge upwards of $60 for just shipping. And the prices for the chicks are only a bit more. Totally worth it (though, on a side note, the other hatcheries I looked at, Meyer’s  and Murray McMurray, have excellent prices on meat birds, and even with the shipping,so we’ll probably be going with one of those places… I mean check out this Fry Pan Bargain .)

This gives us two weeks to get a brooder set up, and supplies regathered.

So the lowdown on our new chicken breeds-

We are getting a speckled Sussex, a couple Polish, a couple new Amercuanas, an Asian blue, an Amberlink, a golden laced Wyandotte, a Welsummer, a Favorelle, and 4 hatchery choice rare breeds, which could be Silkies or Cochins or Buckeyes, anything considered a rare breed, really… depends on the hatch yield for that day. I couldn’t really make up my mind so I figured hopefully they’ll send me different breeds then what I ordered, and make sure they are cold hardy…. seeing as how they know they are shipping to Maine.

AND the other super exciting news for now, we ordered our seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds, a Maine company that we really love and feel good supporting with our hard earned dollars. Included in that order, but not limited to- popcorn seed, beets, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peas, carrots, peppers and STRAWBERRIES. We got one hundred bare root Honeoye plants, one hundred bare root Sparkle plants and 1000 Alexandria seeds. We’ll be receiving the seeds this month, but the Roots won’t be here until may 17th or so. But that just gives us time to amend the soil to their needs! This is going to be an amazing spring.

Otherwise, its off to the daily rigamarole of housework and making pizza for supper.

Until next time, have a wicked good night!

Weekend Warriors – Last week of Feb 2017

So last we left off, Things were getting real…

We were tasked with digging out two more spots, so we could place jacks, and removing the entire bathroom floor. In 4 days. That we technically only had our lunch breaks and evenings to work.

Okay.

So the first day, MrGillis did some digging on his own- But largely, we would come home on our lunch breaks, eat a quick sandwich, run into the shed and dig for the rest of the hour. Then the evenings of thursday and friday, after izzy had gone to bed, we’d grab the monitor, head out the shed and demo the bathroom floor. This was awful, in so many varied ways, I find it best to just do a photo montage.

Yeah, I’m not going to lie, the rot, the water damage, the mold, the crazy illegal and dangerous electrical we found UNDER THE FLOOR in insulation, the leak coming in from  under the shed front sill…. its all pretty horrifying in person. We, honestly, expected it to be bad, but we were pulling chunks of wood off by hand, because it was just rotted thru. We were able to just kind of pick up pieces of flooring and go. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of sawing, and taking out screws and nails, but we really just manhandled most of it out and into the loader bucket.

Friday night, we fell into bed, exhausted, but excited about the following day

Saturday arrives and mrgillis heads out the shed to get as much as he can get done… and we find out we’re waiting until sunday for our handy guy- you know, life comes up.

Ok. Well the upside is we got a lot done in a few days. And mrgillis spent the morning doing some more work on his own… including running strings and seeing that the house was about 3.5 inches uneven….. in mrgillis speak, which is slightly more technical that means that  in a ten foot span, the middle of the house drops 3.5 inches lower then the side.

So sunday dawns, and all of a sudden we have a very sick toddler on our hands.
So the entire day, mrgillis and the handyguy worked at all of this:

In words, instead of photo montage, one sill is completely rotten. Wanna see a hysterically depressing 5 second video of our handyguy ripping it out with his bare hands? Head on over to our instagram.

So they finished ripping out the bathroom floor joists, replaced the support beam, replaced the rotten outside sill, started jacking (to the point where our door doesn’t latch, we have to padlock that sucker now), and lastly, right at 5 of 5pm, scraped the line from our oil tank to our heater. It was only a pinhole, BUT that kind of thing needs immediate fixing. So they got to put in almost another hour, getting together a whole different set of tools, cutting and re-flaring the line.

Meanwhile, I hung out with izzy trying to coax her to eat stomach settlers(crackers, banana, toast, etc), and drink enough liquids to stay hydrated thru a viscous stomach bug. Which then turned around and smacked mrgillis and I straight into the ground for monday. We both could literally do nothing.

It is now wednesday and we’ve all fully recovered. Thankfully, we’ve faced worse then a flubug, but it was pretty awful. Mrgillis ended up going to the ER for IV Fluid because he was so dehydrated. Luckily I have an iron stomach and a constitution of an angry bee, because nothing seems to keep me down for very long.

Well, that brings us up to speed, I’d say. Now I’ve got laundry to fold and dishes to do before work so, hang tough kids.

Until next time, have a wicked good day!

Weekend warriors – The Sum of February 2017

It seems like, as long as this winter has been, it is now just flying by. February always kind of sneaks up on us… like oh here I am and BOOM hahaha now I’m already gone. It wont be long and we’ll be focusing all our energy on things that need to be done for outside…getting chicks, starting seedlings, cruising plant nurseries for good deals.

But that’s still a good month or so away, so for now, I’ll update you on our big kitchen/chicken hospital renovation, which, is actually at a multi-level type of disappointing standstill at this moment…

When we last left you, we were uncovering some serious issues.

Thankfully, we aren’t really the type of people to give up easily… With all the walls torn out and the water damage fairly visible, we were happy for our local handyman to tell us, all the work was not for naught..

So, it was time to rip into the floor. We were excited/nervous, because we didn’t know what we were going to find.. .more insect activity? More mold? Just a bunch of rot? D.B. Cooper? A swamp?  Well we were pretty sure we weren’t going to find a swamp, but it never hurts to expect the unexpected.

MrGillis spent a fair amount of time just ripping down the rest of the walls, cleaning out old insulation, mice/bug nests and trucking it all out. After that, came the Next Big Step in our plan. Removing the floor so we can get rid of all the water damage, level it out, replace and rotten and missing floor  joists and redo the interior of the kitchen well enough to last a good 20 years…

 

My dear hubby did most of this, unless he couldn’t get all the screws out. Then I came to the rescue, with my super helper skills…essentially, I would hold the floor board up, putting stress on where it was giving us trouble, while he figured out where to attack from…  with some help from the circular saw, we got the floor out.

That took basically that entire first weekend of February… it sure didn’t feel like we got a whole lot done, but really, we know, we are getting there…

The second weekend of February, was another weekend of mrgillis working mostly by himself… while izzy was napping, I rushed out and hauled dirt out in 2, two gallon buckets while he shoveled it. It was a bit of a crazy hour and a half, but we got a lot done and I am eternally grateful that we have a baby monitor that we can count on to work with us while we’re working outside and she’s napping away in her extremely, toddler proofed room.

 

We managed to fill that sucker twice before we called it a job well done.

That’s right, we took out over two tons of dirt, wood, bark, insulation, and some weird animal skeleton that was wrapped in plastic(I know, right? It’s got us too.), 4 gallons at a time. It was, well, an experience. We were both pretty sore the next day, and I only put in 1/5 of the time mrgillis did. He insists that my time was invaluable tho, as we really got some dirt out when working together….

So, that pretty much took the sum of the second weekend of February.

Immediately following that, like literally sunday night into monday, we got hit with a huge state wide blizzard that shut down all of Maine basically. We spent the entire week cleaning up from that, over and over again because snow drifts. Seriously. I was shoveling the chicken and shed paths 3 TIMES A DAY. And not little 5 minute clean up jobs. I would go out to thigh deep snow in the AM, get it out of the way, and by lunch be shoveling knee deep snow again.

Also, we got our new kitchen sink setup installed! But that led to another not so great discovery

The third weekend, well, mrgillis and I dropped the little one off at my parents and absconded to the queen city for an overnight stay at a motel.

One, because we got it for free, two because a quality nights sleep was the perfect  belated valentines gift for the both of us, as parents to a 21 month old and three, CLEARANCE sales..and chinese food we didn’t have to cook ourselves.

 

Kmart in Bangor is closing and tractor supply club was having an additional 20% of all clearance deal.. so we hit kmart and spent all kinds of the green stuff on birthday and christmas presents for this coming year and we stopped at 3 different tractor supplies over the course of the two days and got so many goodies for the garden for super cheap…. we found everything from earth worm castings, to a drip irrigation system, to 3’x8′ aluminum screening for making windows (that was 70 CENTS a roll people!) two machetes and a saw for bushwhacking our way around the back property on super super clearance. I also managed to grab some cute wrapping paper and a new sign for my kitchen. We also looked at some sheds to convert to coops, because we don’t know how much time we have to build from scratch…

And that brings us to now, the last official week of the month. We still have no kitchen or chicken hospital. Maple tapping season is Literally on top of us, and we have no where to boil it down.

We’ve taken stock of our maple syrup and are ok with the fact that we wont be making more this year… we also decided that if needed, we can house the chicks in the house for a few days, because we do know we HAVE to get chickens this year… spring is springing and we are only getting a few eggs.

BUT the good news is, Charlie the handy guy came around this last week and told the hubby that after we clear out under two particular spots and take out the bathroom floor we can start jacking it on saturday! Progress!

Anyway, we have about a bazillion things to do, and I have like a thousand blog ideas, even some already in draft from, so I guess, time to call it.

Until next time, have a wicked good day.

 

 

Tips for Cold Weather Hens

We got our first batch of chicks in may of 2012- and we are now entering our fourth consecutive winter of keeping chickens outside. We have always kept our flock happy and healthy by following a few pretty diehard rules- which can be difficult in -40(F) degree windchill for two weeks at a time. But we’ve been successful, in not only keeping our chickens alive, but thriving even in the most bitter of it.

So, here it goes, our top tips for a healthy, happy flock this winter-

  1. DO NOT BUY A HEATER/LIGHT OF ANY SORT.  – I am so super serious about this. We’ve never heated or lit our coop, and yeah egg production goes down, but we’ve never had a problem with frost bite, and we’ve never lost our coop and chickens to a fire. Every year I hear news stories about people losing their whole flocks, or worse homes and families, to fires started by heat lamps. They are dangerous when around chickens and other livestock- and a definitive NO for our homestead.
  2. DO your research about your girls before bringing them home – don’t bring home chickens that aren’t winter hardy. You’re just asking for extra work to keep them healthy and still, they might not make the extreme temps. We have a rainbow flock of everything from americanas to delewares to orpingtons, to our lone wyandotte, hen. But they are ALL winter hardy breeds with characteristics like smaller combs and waddles, very little ornamental feathering, generally docile temperaments -because living space can get crowded with 2 feet of snow all around…We’ve had great luck with every breed we’ve purchased, but its also because we do our research and don’t try to force something that isn’t natural
  3. DO get a heated water setup. – having consistent access to water is ESSENTIAL to good chicken health, especially in the winter. We keep ours inside the coop with the girls elevated on a cement slab so we can watch for any kind of leakage.  I’ve also been eyeing this heated outdoor dog bowl as a nice outdoor water dish, once the hubby allows more in the chicken budget. img_0557 
  4. DO use pine shavings and the deep litter method. I know, it sounds so gross- but there are a couple of really solid reasons to at least consider it. The composting droppings create a lot of heat- I just make sure to add a fresh bag in every few weeks to keep the smell fresh and piney. I swear, the deep litter method is a LIFE SAVER in the super cold months of January and February. Plus you get really nutrient dense compost a couple times a year. I literally deep clean my coop twice a year. Once in the spring, around abouts April, and again in September. Just remember, the deep litter method can be dangerous if you have leaks, water constantly spilling or the habit of not keeping up with fresh shaving. Chickens have very sensitive respiratory systems and if you can smell the droppings, they are suffering.

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  5. DO give your chickens plenty of boredom busters- when cabbages are on sale, we’ll grab a couple and throw one in the run or coop for the girls to kick around… theres usually nothing left the next day…also if its so cold out that I don’t open the door at dawn, like usual, I will fill a tray with all kinds of scraps (chicken friendly of course) and my winter scratch mix and throw it in on the floor for them to go crazy in. img_0611
  6. DO let your girls decide if they want to go out, FOR THE MOST PART. On those aforementioned -40 degree days, they had to stay inside, but for the most part, as long as the wind isn’t to bad, I’ll let them decide and they almost always decide to hang out in the pen for at least a couple hours. My general rule of thumb is, if my nose and eyes aren’t freezing shut, then they can make up their own minds about it… this only really happens in below zero weather.
  7. DO be ready for extra work- I spend most mornings shoveling, because for weeks at a time we’ll get an inch or two every other night.. and then we have actual storms that can dump anywhere from 6 inches to two feet. And those paths to and from the out buildings, and the run itself, certainly do not clean themselves out, no sir. That’s not including the several trips a day I make, back and forth to ensure food, water and security are up to par.
  8. DO teach yourself about chicken diet and nutritional needs. CORN IS NOT A GOOD SUMMER TREAT- it is, however perfect for winter- it heats your chicken up but is low in nutritional value. Corn should only be given before they go to roost at night, in the late fall to early spring to help them stay warm at night. Sorry/notsorry, but I am passionate about that. Make sure to give your girls extra protein packed snacks like sunflower seeds when they are molting to help them grow their feathers back in.
  9. DO keep things like petroleum jelly in your first aid kit- we’ve never had any real problem with frost bit combs UNTIL this year with lucy… it appears that the damage to her comb included damage to the blood flow and supply.. what didn’t die after the attack this spring, is now very badly frost bit and will probably fall off. The petroleum jelly keeps it from getting worse by protecting it from the elements and also any bacteria that might cause further infection
  10. DO create wind barriers- as in the above pictures you can see our coop is elevated. This is for a couple reasons, but for the winter it provides shelter from the elements. To further this ,we put up wind barriers, so they can really, truly enjoy the outside- even in the deepest part of winter.

I’m sure that I’ll expand this list as I go into more years of owning chickens in Maine, but for now, this is a pretty good start I’d say.

I guess, if I were to really have one last piece of advice-

11. Be Flexible. Problems arise, that  no matter how well you think you may be prepared for, that you have covered every eventuality, you will find out, you have not… and those are the lessons covered in

 

Now, that that is all said and done, have a wicked good night.

 

Setting up the homestead- The finale

Well, not really a finale per-say, because we’ll be working on this for the rest of our lives, but for 2016, this is what we’ve gotten done in the last few months. If you’d like to catch up here is 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

When we last left off, our new mobile home was being delivered and set up.

Just this in itself turned into a pretty large job- there was water and septic to hook up, propane tank and lines to run, along with propane appliances- dryer, stove and heater to convert and hook up. Then the dishwasher and clothes washer need to be brought in and installed. Electricity, phone and internet all had to come in and be hooked on as well.

After that was loading/unloading fifty bazillion truck loads and moving in ourselves, our cats, our tree frog and all our belongings, some of which we also have to assemble- things like the new kitchen island and bar stools, bookshelves, shelves… all while packing/unpacking and organizing some things so we can reuse boxes, because we have way more things then ways to pack them.

I have three sets of china. THREE. Two which have been handed down to me and one MrGillis bought me for christmas one year. Moving when you’re thirty is much different then the last time we did this in our twenties.

If my photo montage seems a little crazy and confused, well congrats, you get it, that’s how life has been for the last 8 weeks. Because oh yeah, we managed to do this in the time immediately before thanksgiving until basically now. In fact that’s a lie. We’re still not completely moved. Both our freezers, all our baby aloe pups, a bunch of our gardening stuff… all still at the old place. Thankfully, the old landlords like us.

So yeah, it was pretty much 8 weeks of malarkey… but we got the gist of it done, including our chickens moved and everything.

This was a bit of a project as well, as my honey do, had to put up the fence by himself… luckily he had access to a loader to use as a makeshift fence post pusher. He then stapled the fencing to them and we used another loader and a super nice fella to run it to get the coop over here. My mil took some pictures on her ipad at the time, and if I can ever get them, I promise I’ll add them in because I’m sure they’ll add to the photo narrative.

Why is there snow on the ground in one picture you ask? Because that’s fall in Maine. And sometimes we get what is referred to as just a dustin’.  We no sooner moved the coop and the next day, this happened.

That, is not a dustin’…..There’s my wonderful hubby, hooking up the inside heated water base, so our girls can have access to fresh water all the time, without me freezing my crazy chicken loving ass off trying to keep them in water all day.

All the while we’re moving, we’re also installing more floor in the shed (three down, three to go, YEA!), a wood stove and its piping, and filling  all the finished rooms to the absolute brim full of our stuff.

 

AND all of this is while Hen our silver laced wyandotte, was in the chicken hospital with a ripped comb. That took about the two weeks worth of tlc, vetericyn sprays, yummy treats and occasional escapes to some grassy areas to heal up, and by the time we had the coop moved she was able to go back out with the other girls.

 

As of today, Jan. 3 2017, you couldn’t even really tell she ever had a problem.

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Now, its the beginning of a new year, we have a bunch of projects ahead of us. We have a kitchen to get into working order before sap runs, a chicken hospital to tear apart and rebuild before any other chickens get hurt, and a wood stove that is, as of now, not working with a very long cold 2-3 months ahead of us- and that’s a mini version of just the shed list.

I also have a whole 7 blogs drafted, other then this one, with topics ranging from cold weather chicken care to cooking to more lifestyle. So stay tuned, I’ll try to bust them out more regularly.

Have a wicked good evening.

MOFGA Common Ground 2016

It was a beautiful, chilly start to our Saturday morning. We were on the road before the sun had even broken over the horizon. So early, the chickens were still sleeping peacefully on their roosts.

But with a 3 hour drive in the general direction of way out of town, we wanted to get there, and get there at gate opening – There being Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Annual Common Ground Fair.

See, this is our 4th year attending and every year has been an earmark of some sort. Our first one was the year he proposed, the second one we were married and unknowingly pregnant and the third was Izzy’s first year going, at all of 4 months old.

This year was special in its own way because Izzy was turning 16 months on the day we were attending and would be able to really enjoy the fair, unlike last year where she mostly slept.

We got to the south parking area at about 9, pulled into the appointed parking spot – WHICH happened to be behind the very tree Mr. Gillis proposed at in ’13 – and proceeded to unpack all the baby gear out of the truck and into the stroller. We then hiked the 10 minute trail that brought us to the gateway to fairdom.

This is always an interesting, refreshing walk. The first part of it takes you thru the huge parking lot that is really just lots of grassy knolls covered in vehicles of every order. Even at opening time, the place is always already packed. You follow the line of people until you reach the road crossing area, and that leads you to a trek through some woods.

And it is a bit of a trek- its got hills, stumps(which i have tripped on in years past), and Draft Animal Crossing signs. There are also composting outhouses and Fun Fact Info snippets posted on signs along the way. At the end of this trek, you cross the railroad tracks and walk up one final hill to the South Gate.

On the way in, I always ask to keep half a ticket for our memory jar- this year the gatekeeper let me just keep both whole tickets!

As we walked, we marveled at how busy it already was at quarter past nine- On this side is the one of the farmers markets and its always buzzing with activity. First things first, we always go to the MOFGA store tent to get our yearly poster. We have one from each year we’ve attended, along with the oddball Maine Heritage Orchard poster.

Once we had accomplished that- despite a long winding walk in a line that extended far out the tent doorway, it was time to explore, see some animals and do some shopping. First, to explore we walked the pathways, circled the pavilion. Went here, there and everywhere, sometimes twice.

Then it was off to see the animals! We took Izzy to see the goats and sheep- the rabbits and some donkeys off in the distance. We had to stay out of the poultry barn this year because Izzy wasn’t digging crowds so much.

 

After that we took off and wandered through the vendor areas. We bought some soaps, an organically raised jade tree for our tree frog Casper and I splurged and bought possibly one of the most expensive things I have ever bought- A $33 skein of beautiful angora and wool mix yarn in this soft green that I plan on making into a hat for Izzy.

By now we were all getting pretty hungry and so we got into line for some pulled bbq sandwiches. We sat on a grassy dip in a area next to the trees. The weather had been pretty fantastic all morning, a nice breeze and warm sun, but sitting there we were noticing a slight chill in the air. We decided to head back to the farmers market and gate to get on the long road home.

On our way out, I made one last stop to grab some raw chocolate milk, which I drank on the very long hike back to our truck as we let Izzy explore and walk a good deal of the trail herself.

It was a pretty amazing day and I am so glad that we take time out of our busy lives to do little day trips like these. We really both believe that no matter how tired we were when we finally got home that night, it is well worth it to build those memories and traditions now, for Izzy to grow into. But we have a lot of ways we build memories and a few traditions we’ve been working on for a few years now…. that’s another blog tho.

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Until some other time then, have a wicked good day.

Rhubarb in the ‘burb.

It’s that time of year. 

Most Mainers mark the arrival of spring with the harvesting of fiddleheads. 

Let me be the one to say, ew. No thanks. This is not your blog.

But, if you’re looking for bitter stalks of ruby red to delight your senses, well we are your family. 

Now, rhubarb is an herbaceous perennial, meaning once you get a plant going, and you treat it right, which is actually very little interference, it will come back year after year. It’s stalks and leaves come first, and can get quite large. These preface a flower that once comes in, means the end of rhubarb season. It’s short and you have to get to it to catch it, but it is so worth it. 

A lot of old homesteads have rhubarb plants that have survived even after the family is gone. We go to two different places in search for the stalks. Yesterday, we took a walk to a property owned by my husband’s uncle. There is a row of several plants, each one slightly smaller then the last. The biggest one at the beginning of the line had already started its flower. And someone had already raided the patch a little, but we like the thinner stalks anyway, so I grabbed my shears and started snipping away. 

It’s important to note, some people do the grab and twist method- basically you pinch the stalk between your pointer finger and thumb, digging a little into the ground with your fingertips. Then, very simply, twist and pull. 

You cut the stalk down close to the ground. Go ahead and snip the leaf off as well, since those are POISONOUS AND SHOULD NOT BE EATEN EVER. 

Ehem. Just to be completely clear- do not ever under any circumstances eat the leaves of the rhubarb plant. 

Also, it’s important to Not over harvest..please do not cut to much of the plant. This plant requires very little care, but when foraging a perennial it is super important to harvest responsibly so you can enjoy for years to come. At the end of the season, you can go back and clip everything down. We don’t, as they aren’t our plants and we wouldn’t want to chance destroying them. 

Now, the best way to preserve rhubarb for when you actually use it (hello strawberry season!) is to cut it up and freeze it. 

Give it a quick rinse in a colander, then let it air dry for a few hours. You could hand dry it with towels, but I have a lot to do and they are fine hanging out. 

Yes I am using my stove top as a countertop. No it is not a hot surface at this moment.


Next cut it up into uniform chunks- also not that important. They freeze and thaw more evenly, but when making jam, you end up boiling it to mush anyway. 

Tadaa! Now we bag it with our handy dandy food saver and stash it in the deep freezer until early July when the berries come in. 

Mmmmmmmm jam. And pie. 

Yea! Spring! Amazingness and free food and such!

Next blog is about our upcoming yard sale, how we prepped for it and if it was worth it. It’s a work in progress for sure. 

Until that day, have a wicked good time. 

I get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter

Winter in Maine is a different beast. It’s a thousand different things, some amazing, some not so amazing. Short, cold, windy days- followed by long, colder, windier nights. There’s a whole mess of holidays in the first part, and then a whole bunch of just trying to make it til Spring in the second part. 

It can be quite beautiful, in a stark, unforgiving wilderness way, life up here in northern Maine. It can also be kinda depressing. I think, if you were to ask any single person that lives in Maine, they’d have a personal experience with the doldrums that can hit you… Usually in between January And March. It’s not every year for every person, but no one escapes unscathed. It’s just the way life is. 

This year was my turn, I guess. It took all my energy to just take care of our kid, our house, our animals. I went to bed super early and slept as much as a parent to an under year old child can. This has always been my coping mechanism. I feel it’s a pretty good one, honestly. I feel very well rested after this winter of laziness. 

Thankfully, I have a super supportive partner in crime, family and work environment. I made it. It’s now spring, and we have some amazing things going on- like the buying of 26 acres of land! We are finally taking the plunge and going big! I’m talking berries, orchards, bees, goats, patches of veggies and flowers everywhere… And of course, MORE CHICKENS!

My splurge from this weekend! Currently on sale at Tractor Supply Company.


I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep record here of our new homesteading adventure- but I’m going to forgive myself if I don’t get it all. 

For now, we are getting ready for a huge load of work this coming summer and fall, starting with the celebration of our darling daughters first birthday this coming week. After that is our big community wide yard sale in the beginning of June- coincidently the topic of my next post. 

So, until that time, have a wicked good day. 

Roadside foraging- Apples.

Apples- now this is something that is abundant in Maine. They are literally EVERYWHERE this season.  And while we love going to orchards and grabbing a peck or two, how we get the bulk of our apples is pretty simple. 

We ride up and down old county roads. We find a tree that has apples down around the bottom, because that means they are ripening. We stop at that tree, and Mr. Gillis gets an apple. And then we taste test it. 

If it’s good, we take a bag full and mark its location on our gps. If it’s not, we chuck the apple and get back on the road.   

Mr. Gillis on the back of the truck with our homemade fruit picker

  

He picks and I try it out. I have a more discerning palate as far as ripeness goes.

  

Big, small, red, yellow, crab… we’ll stop and try anything

    
 

 This usually turns into an all day adventure, so we treated ourselves with our favorite takeout- which we were lucky to catch open, as they were closing that day. 

Our favorite takeout, located in Linneus

  

I got the fried clam tenderloins and Mr. Gillis got a sub.

    

A little nature photography

We found some interesting places, some looked like they might even be old apple orchards.   

Apples are everywhere right now.

  

Going places we probably shouldn’t go..

  

This season has been one of the best in recent memory.

  

 Now, we do also buy apples from local orchards, because we really believe in supporting local businesses. And in the interest of full disclosure, we buy apples from the grocery store, there’s nothing wrong with Fuji, or Braeburn or golden delicious. There is a lot wrong with the Macintosh, tho. But the majority of our apples come from this type of hunting and gathering. And a very nice lady named Carrie that gave us a whole bucket of beautiful red crab apples for jelly. 

If you want to read some really good stuff on apples and the lost heritage of the American orchard, check out John Bunker the Maine Apple guy. 

We still have some picking to do but I’ve already made and frozen apple sauce. Which is actually the topic of my next blog…. 

So until that time, have a wicked good evening.