Rosey the Riveter

Friday, July 26, 2013

Scarlett Update... but First, a Bee Update

We got in the bees today.  We confirmed the queen is alive and well in our single-story Nuc.  Which means it's ready to go to a new beekeeper!

The last time we got into the 2-story Nuc, there was no queen.  So we left it alone for 3 weeks and were thrilled to find lots and lots of eggs in it this morning.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find the queen even though she was obviously there! So, in a couple of weeks we'll get back in and make an effort to locate her.  As soon as we do, we can mark her and send that Nuc on its merry way, as well.

In other news, Scarlett continues to be spoiled rotten, living in the kitchen.  She's walking fine and putting weight on her left leg.

And trying to escape the little 'cage' we made to contain her under the kitchen table, since she is back to being able to jump.

Her abscess is beginning to heal (look away now if you don't want to see a picture!)

You can see where it's closing up, and the lump is definitely getting smaller. 

I'm just spraying it a couple times a day with Vetericyn... keeping an eye on it to make sure it's not getting red or hot.  So far, so good.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not For the Faint of Heart

I love looking out the kitchen window while I'm doing dishes and watching the chickens peck and scratch.  It's so peaceful.

If only it was all roses and no thorns, but alas... chicken-keeping has it's disgusting side.

This is Scarlett.  She was a wild thing when we got her.  By the time the farmer had caught her the second time (she escaped from her box), Abby was in love with her.  She was clearly the roosters favorite and was in rough shape, so no rational chicken-keeper would have bought her. 

Sometimes I'm not rational.

She's a great layer, so she earns her keep.  What follows is a story with graphic pictures that are not for the faint of heart.  If you don't like gross, look away.



Thank you.

Ok, on with the story.

A couple of weeks ago, we discovered Scarlett had a lump under her left wing. 
My wonderful husband went on a search and scored a syringe from Rite Aid (for free.)  We tried to figure out what was inside the lump, but couldn't get anything out.  So we figured it was a fat deposit like dogs sometimes get.  We decided we'd keep an eye on it.

So we did.

But it wasn't red or hot, and it wasn't growing... and it wasn't affecting her in any obvious way, so I quit worrying.

But last Wednesday, something was clearly wrong.  Her tail was down and she was slumped in the corner of the chicken tractor.  And for the first time in 3 months, she didn't lay an egg.

An internet search revealed all kinds of possibilities... none of which were good news.  My mind immediately went to egg-bound, even though she wasn't straining or going in and out of the nest box.  So, I fixed her up a steam bath and tried that.  Supposedly, it relaxes the muscles and makes it easier to lay.
On the step below her is a pan with boiling water.  The towel kept the steam in.  And although she wasn't moving, I gave her some food and water to make sure she stayed put.  Her appetite was fine, so she ate.  We attempted this several times over the next day... but it never resulted in anything but a big poop.

There was also some rubber gloves and KY jelly involved, to help lubricate the eggs passage.  Not one of the top 10 moments in my life.

And still, nothing.  By this time I knew she probably wasn't eggbound, because after 48 hours the hens usually die.

Then what?  Internal laying?  Because we still hadn't gotten an egg out of her.  A thorough check revealed no signs of swelling, so probably not.

By this time, of course, I figured it could be Mareks... but she wasn't getting any worse.  In fact, by Saturday night, she was toddling around the yard.  And if it WAS Mareks, it was too late to isolate her, as the others had already been exposed (I have no idea if they were immunized, or not.  Not that that really matters, anyway.)  She had no signs of leg paralysis... but she DID show signs of limping when she walked.  But I couldn't figure out which side was bothering her.

(Tail back up, eating grapes and left-overs, with big brother Max guarding her.)

Sunday morning, the girls and I left for our get-away, so I left Stephen with burial instructions should she decide to keel over.  She spent the day inside, and he kept her in at night, too.  She was still eating and pooping and her tail wasn't limp, so that was a good sign.  And he had to work on Monday and Tuesday, so she went back out in the tractor with the others.

Yesterday when we returned, I once again found her crouched in the corner.  So she came inside yet again.  I was thinking she might have bumblefoot, although there was only a little spot on her foot that I didn't think was the typical scab... so I made an epson-salt bath and gave her a soak.

At this point, she was looking irritated with being inside, so I brought her out to see what she'd do.  She was definitely more mobile than she had been all week, walking from the house to the compost pile and back.  Yet at 7pm, she put herself to bed and went to roost in the coop.  This was more than an hour earlier than normal, so I decided she should be in for the night.

When I went to pick her off the roost, I noticed she was covered in goop.

And sure enough, her abscess had popped and was draining.

The smell was disgusting.

I flushed it out with Hydrogen Peroxide, which I've since been told probably wasn't the best idea.  Warm water would have been better.
 This is the huge hole that resulted.
 I had to use a q-tip to clean it out, while gently pressing to remove all the goop.

I knew the wound needed to stay open to drain, so I added some triple biotic lotion (without any 'caines' in the ingredient list, as they are harmful to chickens) and put her back in the cat carrier for the night.

She can't go back out until the wound heals, as we don't want Fly Strike (google it, it's disgusting).   I've been told that could take two weeks or more.  She is going to be one ticked off chicken at that point... I can already tell today that she is more like her old self and really irritated that she can't be outside.  She's walking without a limp, eating voraciously, and getting really good at pooping where there's no newspaper on the floor.  (We made a little 'cage' for her under a table, where she can walk around and scratch for treats.)

As you can see, Max is taking his job of guard-cat very seriously!

I will keep you updated, but I am hopeful that the worst is over.  What next?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Girls Get-Away

Earlier this summer, the Blue Star Museum list came out, and I was thrilled to see that Monticello was once again included.  We stopped two summers ago as we moved from IL to VA, and I went last year to the Heritage Harvest Festival, but I really wanted to take the kids for another visit.  Then I heard about the Frontier Culture Museum out in Staunton and knew I needed to go there.  So, Sunday morning the kids and I headed out.  First stop, Monticello!

We enjoyed a tour of the house and the garden, and then the kids enjoyed trying their hands at writing with goose feathers.  It was hot, so I didn't get to spend as much time in the garden as I would have liked, but I'll be back in about 6 weeks for the Heritage Harvest Festival!

We then headed to Waynesboro, where our 'home base' would be at the Best Western Plus, right off the highway.  After a very late lunch/early dinner at The Golden Corral (which Daddy doesn't like), we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the hotel pool.

The next morning, we heated to the Frontier Culture Museum.  We loved this cross-stitched piece in the English house.
And the girls played a ring toss game there, too.  Don't you love the pink of the house?
 At the Irish Cottage, we saw these Dorkings and fell in love!  We had a great conversation about all the chickens at the different homesteads.
 These were the Polish chickens at the German house.
 And another needlework piece I wish I could translate!
 Abby caught herself a chick!
 And this is a Dominique at the American Farmhouse.  Someday I'm gonna get me one of those!
 We had another late lunch at Mrs. Rowes, and I couldn't believe the food the kids got for $3.95...  entree, side, drink, and a sundae!  I had a great turkey sandwich with real turkey on homemade bread.

We found a Goodwill and then headed over to Sunset Studios, where we could watch them blowing glass.  We were hoping to blow our own Christmas ornaments, but that cost $40 EACH, and they had to cool overnight, so we opted not to.

We made our way to the Cheese Shop in Stuarts Draft, which is a bulk food store.  I didn't get as much as I did last year when I went with Nancy, because we have a nice little Mennonite store here now.  I did buy lots of cheese!  Then we stopped at the Stuarts Draft Farm Market right down the road and I found RHUBARB.  So excited to make more jam!

We stopped at another Goodwill about a block from the hotel and then spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool.  After a dinner of crackers and cheese and some turkey (also bought at the Cheese Shop), the girls enjoyed a long bath and called it a night.

This morning we checked out of the hotel and headed to Chile's Orchard in Crozet.  I was disappointed that they only had a few 'seconds' and most of them were really far-gone, so we didn't buy much there.

We then went to Henley's Orchard, also in Crozet, where I got a whole bushel of peaches.  These, too, were seconds, but they looked much better.
 From there, we headed to the Our Lady of the Angels monastery where they make their own Gouda Cheese.  It was a lovely drive to the middle of nowhere, but we made it.
And then it was time to finally head home.  It was a lovely couple of days, and the girls were perfectly behaved, so everyone had a good time, even this Mama!  We decided we need to do something like this every year.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Today the Bee Guild hosted the annual Extractaganza, where we all get together to extract some honey and have a yummy potluck lunch, then invite the public in to see how it's done.

Right off the bat, Dave showed us how to sterilize the bottles by dipping them in a solution and letting them air-dry.  Some day, I'll want to sell our honey and this will be important.  But right now, when the honey is just for us, I plan to use canning jars that will be washed in the dishwasher.

The set-up for actually extracting the honey is pretty simple.  A utility sink is ideal, because it has the drain in the bottom to catch all of the honey and cappings that drip out.  The board across is so you have something to lean the frames on.
In order to extract the honey from the frames, you first have to scrape off the wax that the bees use to seal in the honey.  There are several methods used to do this.  These folks here are using a multi-pronged tool that looks like what we used to tease our hair with in the 80s.

 Here, Gene is using a heat tool which is really nice.  But they are pretty pricey.
Once the frames are uncapped, they are placed in the extractor.  They must be placed with the top of the frames on the outside edge.  This is because the beeswax is actually built on a slight angle to keep the honey 'in', so placing them this way ensures the centripetal force will actually move the honey out.

Once the extractor is turned on (or cranked, if it's not an electric one), the honey starts to flow.  It's amazing to see, and I confess I can't wait until it's OUR honey that's flowing!
One tip I learned this year is that paint strainer bags are useful for straining the beeswax out of the honey.  This is why I love events like this... I always learn something new and helpful. 

After the honey is extracted, you need to let it sit for a week.  This is because no matter how much you strain it, there is always some sediment that will settle on the bottom, and using a bottler like this will ensure it stays on the bottom instead of getting transferred to the cute little bear honey jars.
And did I mention that it needs to be warm for the honey to flow?  That means no AC.  Extracting honey is not a comfortable job.  But it's worth it in the end!

Friday, July 12, 2013

What's Goin' on in My World

It's been a busy summer.  I feel like I haven't yet gotten into a groove, and it's half over already!

The other day we found a lump under Scarlett's wing.  It's soft, and there's no sign of infection.  Hubby was a grand sport and went to the local drug store in search of a syringe so we could see if there was anything in it.  So, we wrapped Scarlett in a towel and I got the grand task of inserting the syringe.  Unfortunately, I couldn't draw anything out of it.  It could be an air pocket.  It could be a fat deposit.  Who knows.  Neither are causes for concern.
Scarlett is eating and running and pecking and laying profusely, so we will keep an eye on it, but I'm trying not to worry about it.

I went a little nuts at the last produce auction.  I spent over $50 and came home with onions, potatoes, corn, peas, and tomatoes.
So I spent yesterday trying to process as much as I could.  I canned a batch of salsa, a batch of homemade Rotel, and 7 quarts of corn.  I dehydrated more corn and the peas and some of the potatoes.
Then I cleaned up the kitchen, which was a huge mess.

And then I made a double batch of these which made another mess!  I discovered the recipe last week and the 4 mini-loaves were gone in less than 24 hours, so I knew it was a keeper of a recipe, especially since we are rolling in zucchini and blueberries right now!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bee Mama Drama!

We got in the bees this morning... our goal was to confirm the presence of the queen in the 2-story Nuc so we can sell it, and also to find the queen in the newer Nuc (there were eggs last time, but we couldn't find the queen.)

In the 2-story Nuc, we saw a couple of capped queen cells and no eggs.  (Just last week there WERE eggs, and a couple empty cells, but we couldn't find the queen because they were so crowded so we couldn't sell it, and we put the second story on to give them more room.)  Hmmm.  Wonder what happened to the queen, but relieved they were raising a new one.

In the new nuc, I was able to locate the queen and got her into the queen catcher so we could clip her and mark her. 


She was ALREADY marked.  With a green dot (if you click on the pics above, they will enlarge and you can see the green on her).  Which means SHE was the queen from the OTHER nuc!!!  Now, green was last years queen color, but she is a new queen this year (This was the first queen we ever marked and clipped, and at the time didn't know what the 'bee' color of the year was.  Turns out, it's red.)

So, since the green was fading, we remarked her with pink, which is the closest-to-red paint marker we had.

Apparently they 'swarmed' from the original Nuc because they were too crowded.  But because she was clipped, she couldn't fly.  So she crawled back into the other Nuc and set up housekeeping, which means THAT'S now the one that is ready to sell.  We'll have to wait on the 2-story hive to be queen-right, and then it will be ready to go, as well.

Life is never dull when there are bees involved!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Auction Results

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of this weeks auction haul, but it was a good week.  I got half a bushel of peaches, a 20-lb box of zucchini, two cabbages, and a small box of onions for under $25.

The peaches all went into the dehydrator (some sliced for snacking, and some diced for oatmeal) except for the few I used to make some Peach Anise Hyssop Jam. Overall, I was pleased with the jam but I need to make a few adjustments to make it drop-dead delicious.  At that point, I'll share the recipe!  I'll need several more bushels of peaches to dehydrate, and I still want to make some peach cobblers, so we've only just begun the peach journey.  I still have canned peaches and pie filling from last year, so I don't think I'll make more of them.

The zucchini also went into the dehydrator (some sliced for snacking, some shredded) except for a batch of Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles that I tried.  I read in the Ball Big Book of Canning that you can sub zukes for cukes in any pickle recipe.  Let's just say I won't be making them again!

The onions have disappeared... sliced raw on burgers, chopped in casseroles or on pizza... you name it.  We've also been eating coleslaw with almost every meal, but I may end up dehydrating some of it for soups in winter.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sweet Pepper Mustard

I have been trying to clean out my freezer to make room for this summer's bounty.  The entire bottom drawer was full of peppers... several bags of jalapenos that I vacuum sealed for salsa, and three bags of banana peppers that I must have gotten really cheap at the produce auction.  I'd used some of the peppers in a batch of mustard last fall that I really liked, so I decided to make another round to use up the rest of them.

Here is the recipe I use.  It was the only mustard recipe I found online that actually used ClearJel as the thickener.  Most others called for flour or corn starch, which are not approved for canning.  ClearJel (a thickening agent) is NOT the same thing as SureJel (a pecting).  It can be purchased online or at Amish-bulk-type stores.  I found mine last year at a local bakery, who used it in their pies and agreed to sell me some.  Then I found it later on at the Heritage Bake Shoppe at the VA Beach Farmers Market.  You want the cook type, NOT the instant kind.

I thawed my peppers in a colander and then ran them through the food processor.  It was 2lbs, which translated to a little over 5 cups of chopped peppers.

Combine all the ingredients together (except the water and the ClearJel).
 Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring well. Then, remove from heat.  Mix the ClearJel in the water.
Add it to the pot and stir well.  Then, hit it with an immersion blender until it's the consistency you'd like.  It will thicken as it is in the canner, so don't worry if it seems too runny.  Fill jars and process for 20 minutes.
This is great for pretzels, hot dogs, and even in chicken and tuna salad.  If you want it hot and spicy, use a few jalapenos or habaneros.  Totally up to you (just make sure the total amount of peppers remains the same.) 

I am trying to find a good ketchup recipe so that I can give a jar of mustard, sweet pickle relish, and ketchup as end-of-the-year teacher gifts next summer!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jammin' it Up!

Some of you know that my favorite blog in the world is "Chickens in the Road".  I started following Suzanne and her adventures while we were living in IL, before having chickens and bees and a garden were even glints in my eye.  And one of the gals who I met online via CITR is Robin, who blogs over at Rurification.

I've made several of Robin's Jam recipes (including her "Cherry Jam, Three Ways") and they always turn out great.  I particularly appreciate that they are low-sugar.  I'm using Pomona's Pectin this year with my jams, and I am loving it.  This type of pectin doesn't rely on sugar to set, so you can use as little as you want (or even honey!)

So imagine how excited I was this morning to read that she's coming out with an e-book full of low-sugar jam recipes!  If you click on this link, you can read her announcement and get the code which allows you to purchase the collection for only $1.99!!!!!  I love a good bargain, and supporting fellow homesteaders, which is why I'm passing this info on to you (I get no kick-backs or anything!)

It's peach and blackberry and blueberry season here...  time to get busy!