The Falcated Duck is a beautiful duck that used to be called Falcated Teal. The male has a shiny green and copper/brown head and a brown and white body. It is about the size of a Gadwall Duck and American Widgeon. The female is mostly brown with some gray/blue feathers on the wings. Naturally, it is smaller than the male.
This breed of duck originates in east Asia but adapts well to the North American climate. It has been known to breed from southern Siberia all the way to south China and Vietnam. Interestingly, some have shown up in Alaska, but they are believed to be escapees (or descendants) from captive flocks.
The Falcated is a good dabbling duck and adapts well to aviaries, but be sure to keep their water clean to avoid potential problems.
My mom has been gone now for nearly five years. After my dad passed in August of 2020, we five siblings got to divide up what was left behind (in belongings, not land). This was made possible since they had a trust set up rather than a traditional will. My brother was trustee and he did a fine job.
I have to say that I was always a mommy’s girl and I miss my mom still. There are those days when I just want to talk – wow, what she would say about the shut-downs and COVID. Really, since I know that current events would bother her terribly (she wanted to vote for Ted Cruz after all), I think it’s a blessing that she left this broken earth for Heaven when she did.
But this post is not about American politics or the worldwide COVID stuff. It’s about finding some gems in my parents’ house that I am beyond thrilled to have.
One of those wonderful things is a set of the Foxfire books. Published in the 1970’s, this set of books holds valuable information about cooking, sewing, building, raising animals, making soap, etc. from the Appalachian people at that time. The books hold numerous interviews and pictures, as well as just valuable information for the homesteader of today. When my dad bought the books, one at a time as they were released, my mom thought he was crazy. I love them, though, and will cherish them for my brief time on earth.
Another wonderful find is my mom’s handwritten recipe book. Her writing is not the easiest to read, but I’m used to it and have had fun making some of the dishes from my childhood. Some of the recipes I will never make, as I did not care for them when I was growing up and I’m pretty sure I won’t like them now.
There are no recipes strictly created to be gluten-free, but a lot of them are just because of the nature of the dish. Others are easy enough to alter to make them gluten-free, as is the cornbread recipe that I made this morning. I’d like to share that recipe with you and hope that you will find it as enjoyable as I do. I changed up some of the ingredients to make the bread without gluten and hopefully a little healthier.
Cornbread (made gluten-free)
1 1/2 cups white cornmeal (substitute masa harina)
2 TBSP shortening (substitute coconut oil; you could also use butter, bacon grease, or lard)
1 1/2 cups milk (substitute coconut/almond milk blend; you could use any milk of your choice)
1 egg, beaten
Sift together (or run a whisk through) cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Melt shortening in a 9 inch square baking pan (I used a 9 inch cast iron skillet) in a preheated, very hot oven 450 degrees Fahrenheit (I used 425 degrees). Add milk and egg to dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Add melted shortening from pan to batter. Mix well, but don’t beat. Pour batter into very hot pan. Bake in preheated oven 450 (425 if in cast iron) 20-25 minutes (Mine took 40 minutes).
*I take breads out of the cast iron pans after they have cooled anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Too long sitting in the pan creates moisture and makes the bottom of breads soggy – especially gluten-free breads.
The American Dorper sheep is a hair breed that originated in South Africa about 1946 (when the breed was finalized). Blackheaded Persian Ewes were bred with Dorset Horn rams and, over time, the result was a hardy meat sheep that shed hair rather than wool that needed to be shorn.
The meat from the Dorper is considered to be among the best – as far as Americans go. The British still enjoy their mutton, but Americans have not learned to enjoy the stronger taste all that much. The Dorper fits the bill for the more tender palate. If you’ve never had lamb, the American Lamb has published many tasty lamb dishes that you might want to try.
The Dorper, in my opinion, doesn’t necessarily always shed all of its wooly hair at once. My ewes shed little by little much as a dog does. It often helps to brush out their wool to speed the process. If any shearing needs to be done, it is usually just for the wool on the sheep’s back.
Dorpers are heat tolerant, but they also do very well in harsher climates such as ours in northern Michigan. Mature ewes can weigh as much as 210 pounds while a ram might reach 230 pounds. They have black heads with white bodies. There is an all white Dorper that bears that name – White Dorper.
Ewes can be bred almost any time of the year, cycling every couple of weeks. Their pregnancies are usually around 147 days.
Dorpers are very friendly and fun to have around the farm. They are a great meat variety but also make sweet pets.
I wish I had thought about meal planning when we first started a family. I think it would have made things easier as our family began to grow larger. By the time I had our daughter (baby number 5), I finally figured out that having a plan was the way to begin to simplify home life. Mind you, I was a full-time homemaker at that time with “only” five children. But I was a busy homemaker – as the majority of homemakers are. We homeschooled the kids, grew the largest garden that we could, preserved that harvest year after year as best we could, and prepared fresh, home cooked meals the majority of the time.
And then there was the penny pinching that we were forced to do. That in itself is a full-time job. And I became quite good at it.
As the years have gone by, I have learned to scale down my meal sizes to suit five people rather than seven, unless we have company …. but you know how that is discouraged these days.
There are some things that I continue in earnest, things like a large garden and preserving that harvest year after year.
Then there’s the menu planning. For a while, I tried to wing it by skipping that one chore on Sunday evening. You can guess how that went. I work until 5:00 most nights and one day of the week I actually work until 7:00. That’s the night when the family needs to know not only what they are having, but perhaps have it all ready in the slow cooker. Menu planning had to be re-implemented. And it’s been a good thing.
The best way that I have found to create a meal plan is the way that I get the most enjoyment. That means that I DON’T like to spend a lot of time on the computer looking things up or typing them into a program and then printing, or maybe just typing and no printing at all (bringing them up on a phone or other screen when I need them). You see, I work in an office setting for four hours every day at my job. I don’t have the desire to continue that office setting at home any more than I need to.
I like to spend time in real, physical books so the old-fashioned cookbooks are for me. I have quite a collection of them, but nothing as extensive as some people I know. I like to write things down on real paper with a real pen (blue ink preferred, or red when I’m in a fun mood), so I write out my menu plan each week, beginning with Monday.
I only plan out the evening meals and I do so by first figuring out what ingredients I have on hand. Rarely do I ever decide to cook something that requires going out to buy ingredients first. Sometimes I have to do a quick visual inventory of the pantry or freezers. My husband is a huge meat eater and if I don’t plan the meal around meat, I’m in a little bit of trouble. Between you and me, however, I do make vegetables the star. Our basement shelves are full of home canned veggies and I enjoy going “shopping” there the best.
When the meal plan is complete, it is posted on the refrigerator so nobody has to ask “what’s for supper tonight?”
What if you want to participate in some of those blog memes such as Menu Plan Monday? If you want to share your creativity or special recipes, I would encourage you to do that. Adding your blog posts to these memes also drives visitors to your site and that is always a good thing.
Some of my favorite food bloggers with menu plan themes are:
The Ringed Teal is a fairly small duck as are most of the ducks in the Teal family. When in full color, the males have a pinkish breast that is spotted with black. The back is a chestnut color that is truly striking. The flight feathers have a bright patch that is a nice shade of green. You can’t miss the blue bill.
Females are mottled below and solid brown above. When in flight, the wings flash white and green bands.
The Ringed Teal are native to South America and primarily live in swampy areas and nest in holes in trees, similar to the North American Wood Duck and other tree nesters. They lay anywhere from 6-11 eggs and both parents are active in incubating their eggs. Average lifespan of the Ringed Teal is about 13 years.
An easy duck to raise and keep in an aviary, the Ringed Teal is a pretty nice addition to any duck collector’s aviary.
The Golden Pheasant is often called Chinese Pheasant because of its origins in China. This stunning bird is native to central and southern China. It thrives in areas of the dense cover that forests and mountains provide. In the wild, the birds eat an omnivore diet consisting of insects and grubs, as well as bamboo shoots, seeds, and some flowers.
The Goldens in captivity usually eat a variety of insects and seeds. They love some berries – and the tomatoes I give them are a special treat. They need access to clean water, as does any animal. They are not especially difficult to keep and some people think they are splendid pets. Interestingly, some pheasants can form a bond of sorts with their owners. When our Goldens see us with treats in hand, they are often bold enough to come close enough to pet. However, they don’t enjoy anyone trying to catch them – and who would? If you have children, please teach them to be gentle with your pheasants and other “livestock”. While they normally won’t attack anyone, they can be physically harmed by the chase.
Golden Pheasant males, when in full color, will be a deep red/orange with a bright yellow crest. The females are dull in color, a mottled tan or brown. Both sexes have yellow legs and yellow bills. Full sun can have a bleaching effect upon the bird’s vibrant color, hence it is important to provide shaded areas for captive pheasants. In fact, in their native China, the wild Golden Pheasants spend a great deal of time under the thick cover that the mountains provide.
The “Red” Golden Pheasant is purported to be the original color and the variations (yellow golden, buff, etc.) are thought to be mutations as the result of cross breeding between Lady Amherst Pheasants and Golden Pheasants. In fact, their territories in China overlap somewhat and the birds are quite similar. In captivity, Lady Amhersts and Goldens have been cross bred successfully and they must be kept apart by breeders who intend to keep the bloodlines pure. Notice the red streak on the crest of the Lady Amherst Pheasant below. If you see this red streak in a Golden Pheasant’s crest, you can infer that the bloodline has been compromised.
A fun piece of trivia that I ran across today concerning Golden Pheasants is that they may have been brought to America as early as 1740, which would make them the first pheasant species brought to the colonies. It is also thought that George Washington kept some at Mt. Vernon.
Golden Pheasants lay somewhere in the range of 8-12 eggs per clutch, and the incubation time is roughly 22 days. We have found that the pheasants we keep do not incubate their eggs well, nor are they particularly good parents. We take the eggs and hatch them with an incubator. After that, we hand raise the babies using a brooder. They are not fully mature until their second year when they will be in full color and able to reproduce well.
Life-Springs-Farm and Aviary’s breeding rooster is descended from imported San Diego Zoo wild stock. His colors are vibrant and very pure. The rooster in the middle in the picture below is our breeding male.
We will be bringing some young Golden Pheasants with us to the Shipshewana (Indiana) swap meet October 17, 2020. If you are in the area, please look us up.
Most gardeners, whether they be new to the hobby (or profession) or not have heard of composting and the many wonderful benefits of it. What I’ve found in researching the topic is that there are so many different styles and methods of composting that to decide which is the best can be slightly overwhelming. It’s like trying to figure out which curriculum to buy if you’re homeschooling or more on the current side of things, what is the truth about COVID-19 – which is a truly overwhelming topic all on its own and not one I want to tackle.
Composting really is not rocket science, but there is a “science” to it. Basically, it’s a chemistry lesson that is actually fun and not so hard to do. The results may vary, but no matter how you go about creating useable organic compost that can ultimately feed your garden will be a plus rather than a bust.
If you have read anything I have previously written concerning my style of gardening, you will remember that I use the Ruth Stout no dig method. Last year, my husband tilled the garden a couple of times and I was not necessarily pleased with the results. Sure, it got rid of weeds in a hurry and the soil was nice and fluffy. Problem is, nice and fluffy is not always what you want.
By using a rototiller to break up the soil, gardeners also inadvertently break up microorganisms and the entire soil structure. Weeds seem to be gone, but they quickly sprout up and become more and more prevalent. When a person steps on the fluffy, tilled soil, they squish and mess up everything under their feet creating havoc on the tiny particles and microorganisms that make up and feed the soil.
Walking on soil that is undisturbed does not harm the organisms hiding underneath the top of the garden. The soil is firm and undisturbed and weed seeds that sprout upward are easily pulled and discarded, and they don’t continually pop up.
But don’t expect that if you choose no dig next spring after having tilled for a length of seasons before, that you will only pull a few weeds here and there and then never have to pull weeds again. It takes a couple of seasons or more to get to the point that weeds are a thing of the past. Namely, it takes undisturbed garden beds that have been mulched heavily with compost to really control weeds.
That’s where you come in with compost (broken down organic matter). I don’t have a nice, pretty compost bin but I do have compost containers. Last summer I read about a woman in Canada who lives in Zone 3. I live in Zone 4b. This gal doesn’t have a lot of time in any one growing season before she sees a heavy frost and then piles and piles of snow.
I relate to the snow.
The Canadian gardener in Zone 3 found that it was too much to trudge out too far from the house in deep snow to throw out compostable kitchen trimmings that would freeze anyway, so she cut the bottom out of a dark plastic garbage can and put it right outside her door, Whenever she had a bit of composting matter to throw into the bin, all she had to do was brush snow off the garbage can lid and throw in the scraps. The dark plastic helped the winter sun to heat up the contents and, in the spring at planting time, all she had to do was tip over the garbage can and scoop the compost into a wheelbarrow to remove to the garden.
I liked that idea. Tossing whatever composting trimmings (coffee grounds with paper filter, vegetable and fruit trimmings, egg shells, etc.) I had in my coffee can that sits under the kitchen sink worked well this past winter, or should I say spring. More on that a little further down in this post.
My only complaint is that my husband didn’t like having that compost garbage can sitting next to the house anywhere. I still had to walk to the garden in the snow. However, it wasn’t that bad because he kept a plowed trail for me to walk on.
My garbage compost bin is not black or very dark. It is a light blue and the lid doesn’t match. It isn’t dark either. It’s a tan color. My compost does not heat up with the winter sun (which we rarely see in northern Michigan winters anyway). Come spring, my compost material in the bin was frozen and looked fresh. I left the lid off in the spring except for at night (animals in the rural areas here are notorious for getting in compost bins – bears in particular, which is another story for later). It really didn’t take long for the material to break down once the weather was warmer and the sun stronger. By summer’s start, I was able to tip over the can and start filling it again. As of today, the compost garbage can is pretty full with all sorts of organic matter that is breaking down nicely, but winter is coming….
The other compost “bin” we have is simply chicken wire around a large, and I mean large, pile of “used” straw, wood chips, and hay out of the animal pens. We have made the mistake of using that large heap as a shooting target backdrop this spring and summer. I’m going to have to take out some spent bullets before spreading it all over my garden.
And that brings me to another point when it comes to composting. Don’t put materials in your compost that you don’t want in your body. That includes things like chemicals from non-organic vegetables and fruits, non-compostable products like tin foil, bullets, and plastics, among other items. Whatever you put on your soil will seep into your produce.
Apply compost and mulch all over the garden in the fall (for us in the frozen north) and let it sit over the winter. Mulch is a little different from compost. Mulch is not so broken down. In Ruth Stout’s method, it usually means rotten hay. In the spring you will have healthy soil full of wonderful worms and other organisms that work to the benefit of the garden.
If you have thoughts and ideas concerning fun compost bins and methods, let me know in the comment section. I love experimenting in the garden. It’s what makes gardening such a fun way to feed and nourish my family.
Are you like so many other people all over the United States and other countries who are planting gardens like never before? If so, you might want to consider mulching this summer. Ruth Stout, a pioneer in garden mulching and no-dig gardening, ranted and raved on this method of keeping weeds down and produce yields up – all without adding harmful chemicals and fertilizers.
The reasons to mulch are many. It adds important nutrients to the soil by decomposition of organic (plant or animal based) and inorganic (not plant or animal based) materials. I like to use compost, old hay or straw, or even pine needles when the plants need the extra acid needles provide. Grass clippings are another great choice, as well as cardboard placed under other materials to keep weeds from popping up by smothering them.
Pull the mulch up as tight to the plants as possible and don’t worry about burning them or crowding them out. This helps with weed control too as well as keeps the soil more moist in order to nourish your plants. Some plants that totally rely upon moist conditions are melons, squash, celery, and greens.
I have a large garden, really large – about 2800 square feet. I have often had to be very creative in finding suitable material for mulching. Right now, cardboard as well as wood chips (we have our own wood chipper) and rotting hay/straw from the animal pens provide a lot of the mulch in the garden. We don’t have a bagger for the mower and we don’t have much grass to mow anyway, so that’s out.
Make sure that your mulch layers are rather thick. I like to have several inches, as much as six in some places, down. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but that thick layer will rot down into the soil over the summer and by fall, it will be a lot less.
The mulch you place down provides nutrients to the organisms that feed on it and in turn, feeds your soil. Turn up a little mulch after a while and notice the earthworms! Who doesn’t love seeing that?
This is my first year doing a no-dig garden. I am totally shocked already at how many worms and other helpful organisms are inhabiting the soil beneath. By not digging or tilling the garden, I am not disturbing the natural balance of things. The worms keep the soil aerated underneath while keeping it compacted enough to walk on it and disturb nothing. My plants are doing great so far. An added bonus is extra space in which to plant because I no longer need wider rows to accomodate a tiller.
I hope you’ll give mulching, and perhaps the no-dig technique, a try in your own garden space. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
We’ve all seen and heard enough of the COVID-19 stuff these days, and I’m not here to follow that thread. However, I do live in Michigan where we have had some of the toughest restrictions since late February and continuing to the present. Our governor has placed restriction upon restriction and she has ordered more to continue until at least May 15, 2020. Throughout this period of time, people have had to be creative in finding ways to fill their time, while at home, but more importantly, in feeding their families.
We live on a farm and we have always had an abundant vegetable garden. My parents were born during the Great Depression and my dad, in particular, was raised on a dairy farm which he and his brother later co-owned. So, needless to say, I have never been without a means to provide food for myself or for my family. That said, Jeff and I did not always raise animals for meat or for milk due to lack of acreage at times. We did always try to have our own eggs and one time we raised two Jersey steers for beef in the freezer. At other times, we had meat chickens. But that was all rather sporadic.
Throughout the 33 years that we have been married, one thread has remained consistent: Have some sort of a vegetable and herb garden. I want to mention that flowers and shrubbery are a part of the growing craze, but not so much of an importance is placed upon them.
Today, with the fears and restrictions placed upon our country and the great state of Michigan, people are turning to gardening like it’s something novel. For many, I suppose, it is a novel idea.
I am very happy that I placed my seed orders with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers early on before any of this COVID-19 stuff happened. I’m thankful that I saved seeds from last year’s garden that I forgot to buy with my seed orders this year, seeds such as acorn squash and cilantro. When I tried to place orders for those two items, I was dismayed to find out that I could no longer get them because the seed companies were either sold out, had huge waiting times for shipping, or were no longer selling to individuals this year but were only filling orders for commercial businesses. So much for the shallots that I also forgot to buy but really wanted to try growing for the first time. I substituted leeks instead.
Small business greenhouses were not allowed to operate in Michigan and larger stores had to tape off garden centers, therefore not allowing consumers to purchase seeds or plants during one of the most crucial times of the year for gardeners. Now some of those restrictions have been loosed, but to what damage? Do the greenhouse proprietors really have the time to now begin everything for the growing year? Maybe but doubtful. They’re really going to take a hit.
As are home gardeners unless they were able to locate seeds or plants elsewhere.
So, where am I going with all of this? I guess what I want to accentuate is the need for all of us to be a little (or a lot) more self-sufficient in many, many ways. Does that mean making our own clothes as my mother did for me and my five siblings? Maybe. Does that mean raising animals for meat and eggs? You might want to consider it if you are not a vegan and you have the land to do so.
Does that mean creating a Victory Garden for you and your family? You bet. If you don’t have a lot of space, you can always grow some things in pots on your back deck, in your yard, or on a patio. You can try hydroponics inside the house. And then there’s foraging for wild food. In the spring you can always find dandelions (greens and flowers, roots if you want to dig them) and sometimes mushrooms (make certain they are not poisonous; most aren’t but those that are can be deadly). In the summer, look for berries and wild herbs. In the fall, you can sometimes find great wild apples and other fruits.
I think people around northern Michigan and maybe around the country are thinking about preserving the garden produce this year more than they have in the recent past. When I went online and to the hardware store in town, I had difficulty finding canning lids. It appears that they keep selling out. Maybe they will have to put a limit on purchases for canning supplies as they have with toilet paper. Just kidding about the limits but serious about the canning lid craze.
To wrap up this long, rambling post, I do want to say that I am in no way complaining that people are buying up the gardening and home preserving stuff. On the contrary! I am excited to see that folks are beginning to really see the need for independence from the grocery stores. It’s time that we all work together to help each other grow good, organic foods for themselves whether that be in the form of vegetables and fruits or animal products – or both. I have been saying for some time that it is my desire to teach some younger women how to provide food for their families not only in the summer months but for the entire year. I hope that now I can interest some gals in learning more. Well, I can’t do a whole lot of mentoring until all of these restrictions are lifted in my state, but I can encourage them from afar.
So … Go, Go, Go! Let’s get those Victory Gardens going!
We have cats in the house, two to be exact. The cats are the whole reason we finally bit the bullet and purchased a greenhouse kit this year. Every year that I have started plants in the house, I have watched the cats completely devour them just about the time they were ready to transplant into the garden.
Their favorite was always the stevia …
Last year, I tried to baffle them with forks placed upside down in the pods so that the tines stood up on end and, supposedly, pricked them in the face whenever they tried to take a bite. However, they soon decided that prickly forks were worth the overall risk.
Take a look at Ginger’s guilty face:
So, back to my original thought. The greenhouse is sitting on a pile of snow right now with no panes or doors on it yet. I need to start some plants now or forfeit a crop from certain plants. We live in zone 4b and it’s just too short of a season for some things. Things that we love like melons and tomatoes.
Since I am trying to make the most of my time off from the library, and believe me when I say that it’s a blessing for me, I decided I would give starting a few plants indoors another try – at least until the greenhouse is finished and I can transition stuff to there. As an aside, I do plan to plant a whole lot more than the 72 cells I just planted today.
The newly planted tray of 72 plants in the making contains grape tomatoes, paste tomatoes, golden melon (cantaloupe), sugar baby watermelons, bee balm (lemon), an heirloom slicing tomato, tomatillos, purple celery, and some pampas and fountain grasses (beautiful cover plants for Jeff’s bird pens). I placed the tray on a heat mat that is sitting on my filing cabinet in our bedroom. It’s one of the few slightly sunny spots in the house. I’m praying it works.
Because we can’t just sit around doing nothing, even during times of being homebound in a health crisis. One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong and healthy is to keep physically active. Get fresh air. Work around the house. Take walks where you can be alone with nature (and avoid being in violation of the “lockdown”). Eat as healthy as you can by making your own meals rather than using pre-made junk foods. Soups are great and so easy to make. Throw in what you have and simmer to deliciousness. Bay leaves, if you have some, give wonderful flavor, as does oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc. Try to keep salt to a minimum. Last year, I canned up some vegetable broth that I made using up the odds and ends in the fall garden. What a great resource to have in the pantry – you might want to consider canning or freezing vegetable broth this year.
Above all, keep your mind and spirit healthy with prayer and Bible reading. Stress is a killer. Rely on the One who is in total control. Don’t worry. It’ll all be fine.