• The Wrong Rabbit

    The other day, I was in my room doing school. All of the sudden, I hear, “Payton! Come here right now!” I hurried into the kitchen where my mom was holding my rabbit, Ricky. I was confused for a moment but her face indicated that something had clearly gone terribly wrong. “Spencer got in the cage with Ricky!” She exclaimed. My face twisted in more confusion. “What?” I asked. Then I ran to the window and saw Patrick leading my beagle, Spencer down through the field to his kennel. “What happened? Is he okay?” I peppered her with questions. “Well, I was working outside and Patrick called to me, ‘did Payton put her dog in with her rabbit?’ And of course, I told him you didn’t. Patrick said, ‘Well he got in there somehow, and that rabbit’s dead.’” You see, we have a configuration of screens that make up a little pen in our yard where we sometimes put Ricky out to eat grass. Not far from that pen is a white picket fence attached to the house where I sometimes put the dogs. Spencer, being a beagle, saw the rabbit and found a way to get out of the picket fence. Anyway, Mom continued by saying, “So we went over there and got Spencer out. But Ricky was still alive! He had just been playing dead. Spencer broke part of that picket fence trying to get out. Ricky has dog slobber all over him but he seems okay. Poor rabbit’s gonna have PTSD from that!” I laughed and brought Ricky back out to his cage. I thanked God it hadn’t been worse. Spencer should stick to chasing wild rabbits next time, and not our holland lop.

    -Payton Gardner

  • How to Can Beets!

    Hello everyone! I haven’t written on my blog in a while so I figured a post was long overdue!!

    Today, I’ll be writing about how to can beets.

    At my house, pickled beets are one of the most important things on the canning shelf. This year, we canned 50 pounds of them. It took hours and hours but was very worth it! This is a long process so lets begin!

    First of all, gather your supplies and ingredients:

    • 3 quarts of beets
    • 2 cups of sugar
    • 2 sticks of cinnamon
    • 1 Tablespoon of whole allspice (or 2 Tablespoons of ground allspice)
    • 1- 1/2 teaspoons of salt
    • 3- 1/2 cups of vinegar
    • 1-1/2 cups of water

    Supplies:

    • At least 4 big canning pots
    • measuring spoons and cups
    • Canning rack
    • lots of sterilized pint or quart jars and lids
    • Canning funnel and magnet stick (for hot lids)
    • Jar grabber
    • ladles, spoons, etc.

    PREPARATION: Before you begin, be sure your counters are ready with cutting boards for various things and that you have a sink or bucket full of cool water. Also, you’ll want to either hand wash your jars and lids THOROUGHLY or run the dishwasher.

    STEP 1: First, cut off the beet leaves, leaving only 2 inches of stem, if there are any, that is. Next, scrub the beets with a brush and cool water.

    Scrub the beets

    STEP 2: Put the beets in one of the big canning pots on the stove, and cover with water. Let it come to a boil and then turn it down a bit. Depending on how big the beets are and how many there are, it will take a different amount of time for the skin to loosen up. One of the reasons to boil them is so that you can peel, or rub, the skin off afterward. Smaller beets may take about 20-25 minutes, medium-sized beets might take 30-35 minutes, and larger beets will probably take closer to 40 minutes. To test the beets to see if they are ready, carefully spoon one out and drop it into a sink or bucket full of cool water. Rub the skin. If little pieces come off easy, they are probably ready. If you have to use your fingernails to get the skin off, they aren’t ready yet.

    STEP 3: While the beets are cooking, start preparing the liquid to put them in the jar with. Gather your ingredients (listed above). Vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice, water, and salt. Combine all the ingredients (except beets) in a large canning pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove the cinnamon sticks (if you are doing two batches, you can use the same cinnamon sticks plus 2 extra). Bring liquid to a boil.

    STEP 4: Back to the beets, while your liquid is simmering, peel all the skin off your beets and cut off the ends. Then, cut the beets up the way you prefer. We usually cube them, as in the picture below.

    STEP 5: Depending on how many beets you’re picking and how many jars you’ll need, you’ll need to start putting the clean jars and lids on the canning rack in one of the large pots and letting them come to a boil. Let them boil for about ten minutes then very carefully use jar grabbers to set the sterilized jars on a dishtowel on the counter.

    STEP 6: When the beets are all sliced and the jars are ready, using the funnel, ladle some beets into the jars.

    STEP 6: After your jars are filled, pour the liquid over the beets. Wipe the top of the jar carefully with a clean paper towel, then put a lid on each jar.

    If you have a jar not fully filled, you can put a lid on it and keep it in the fridge for up to three weeks, but hopefully, you’ll have eaten them by then.

    STEP 7: Last step! Next, using the same pot and canning rack we used for sterilizing the jars, using the jar grabber, set a few cans of beets with lids in the water, and let process for 30 minutes. A jar or two is bound to break while processing in the water. Just ladle out the runaway beets and remove the broken glass with tongs.

    Alright! Now just take the canned beets out of the water and let them cool on a counter for about 24 hours with lids on and then they are ready to eat!! I hope this post was helpful for you and enjoy your pickled beets!

    This recipe should yield about 6 pints

    We had 50 pounds to can so we got about 35 quarts.

  • Butchering day!

    Warning: If you happen to be squeamish, maybe you shouldn’t read this post, for it gets a bit gruesome. Also, if you are seeking a good post to butcher your own ducks, you should probably seek guidance from someone more experienced since I’ve only done it twice.

    Before we begin, everyone reading this should know our ducks have lived happily and everything about this process is completely humane. God tells us in Genesis 1: 26-27 “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over all the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Be sure you know as well that I love animals, but I am very interested in homesteading and raising my own food.

    When we got our ducks from Tractor Supply, we had no idea they would be all drakes! Drakes are prone to aggression in mating season and since we have no female ducks, we were worried they would attack our chickens, which eventually lead to us having to put them in a separate enclosure. We asked a friend of ours, who had a lot of experience butchering animals, to show us how to butcher our problematic ducks. So a week ago, we headed over to their house with the ducks. (We only butchered two of the ducks, cause we needed to keep the other for when we get female ducks.) God has definitely instilled in me a passion for homesteading because I wasn’t sad, upset, or afraid to butcher the ducks, instead, I was excited to learn!

    First of all, we got prepared. Our friends had already set up the rack to hold the ducks’ feet, prepared two sharp knives, and filled a cooler with water and ice.

    Next, grabbing one duck by its feet, we tied him upside-down. He flapped around for a second but after a few seconds, the blood rushed to his head, and he sort of passed out. (neither of the ducks suffered one bit from this process) Then the man helping us, slit the side of the duck’s neck and let the blood drain out. The duck still twitched a bit but don’t worry, he was dead but his nervous system was still active.

    We decided to skin the duck instead of plucking the feathers out, cause that takes hours- especially on an older duck. So we made a cut at the top near its legs. Then we started cutting the little white stringy tissue or whatever its called. If you cut enough white strings, you can pull down the skin for a ways until you reach the wings. We had to be careful, when skinning the duck, to use the knives gently so not to damage the meat.

    Once we reached the end of the wings, we had to find the joint and bend it backwards and then cut at the joint and remove the remaining feathers and skin. Once we did that for both wings and removed all the skin and feathers we could for the rest of the body up to the neck, we had to move onto the tail. The tail is very tricky since that is where the oil glands are located. The friends helping up did the tail since we were beginners so I don’t have much helpful info about that part. Then, once we reached the neck, we skinned that like the rest of the body, I believe, until we got to the head. Then, if I remember correctly, we made a U-shaped cut between the two bones at the top of the neck. Then I reached my hand in and grabbed out the windpipe (or at least I tried). It broke when I tried to grab it. The windpipe feels exactly like a plastic straw with bumps! Then, if I remember right, we tried to find the spot at the top of the neck, near the duck’s jaw, that has less bone than the rest of the neck and cut off the head. By now, the whole body was skinned and only the feet were left. We felt for the joint right where the feet are and cut right there on both sides (it helped to bend them backwards first.) The people that helped us butcher the ducks had recently redone their bathroom and they kept the sink for other purposes. It really came in handy while we gutted the ducks. Then we got the hose to rinse the duck off and kept it running into the sink while we gutted it. After making a cut in the belly far back near the legs, I reached my hand inside the duck and scooped my hand against the rib cages. I accidentally popped something but I mostly got the rest of it out. Now the kidneys, gallbladder, liver and intestines and some other parts were out. Then I reached in a second time to grab the lungs and heart. then we cut off the neck and saved it to make broth. Now it was mostly done. I may have forgotten a few steps but that was a general overview of it.

    Thanks so much for reading this! We cooked up the ducks- which had barely any meat on them at all- and sadly they tasted like steak but were extremely tough. We made it into broth to put in the dogs’ food. That’s about it, folks!

    -Payton G.

  • ~ August~

    I really don’t understand… I did everything my master told me to do… I never ran away, I hardly ever barked, I never destroyed anything inside the human den, and I slept beside my master’s bed faithfully every night. He was my second master- I had already been taken away once. I thought I was finally home. This crazy adventure started one day in what humans call April. I was asleep on the rug in the nice warm house. My master was sitting in a chair not far away from me. Suddenly my ears perked up when I heard a human transportation monster outside. It wasn’t just passing on the highway, it was too close to the human-den for comfort. Jumping to my paws, I let out a low bark, warning my master. Suddenly the noise stopped, but I was still suspicious. Then I heard a knocking noise at the entrance of the human den. My master walked to the entrance and I followed. I wagged my tail in excitement when I saw what was there. Humans! Two of them! They petted me for a while and barked at my master. I joined the conversation every once in a while when they stopped petting me. As I sniffed the humans, I noticed they had a similar smell to my master’s. At once I knew they must be kin. After a while, my master carried a bag of my dog food outside, and I followed. I was a bit confused when they put my food in the human transportation monster. But humans are often weird so I didn’t question it. But I did get more suspicious when they put my dog house in the human transportation monster. I barked to try and help the humans get their heads straight. It didn’t seem to help. After a little while of the humans barking at each other, my master came over to me. He petted my head and barked something at me quietly. Then he walked towards the human transportation monster and barked the familiar command. I jumped into the monster and waited for my master to follow. But instead, he just stood outside and his kin got in the monster. I whined, waiting for someone to realize they had made a mistake. Panic crashed over me! The monster started moving and my master disappeared inside the human den. I couldn’t understand. Why would he give me to a new master? It seemed like days before we arrived at a place with lots of grass and trees. There were three humans outside. The monster came to a stop. My master’s kin put something called a leash on me- which was something I had never been contained by before. I found it easy to pull my new master as I hurried to meet the new humans. But still, something wasn’t right. There were two other dogs- both several times smaller than me. They were in a fence so I didn’t get to play with them yet. New smells flooded my nose. I wasn’t allowed in the human den, so the new master locked me in what they call, the workshop. I barked for a long time- for I was frightened. After a few days, my new master trusted me enough to let me roam free. I was glad, because that leash was getting annoying. There was lots of room to run around and all types of animals. An abundance of fat, flightless, birds and three cats! And a dog a whole lot smaller than me, and even a weird furry little creature in a high cage. I didn’t run very much where I lived with my previous master but now I run everyday with that little beagle and I am trying to teach him not to run off. I have pretty much adjusted now- to life on Solus Christus Farm. I make all my humans happy yet I am still not allowed in the human den except the mudroom, where I sleep at night. The rest of the day I stay outside and bark loudly if I see anything suspicious. I can tell this will be my forever home.

    If you are confused, that was a paragraph from the point of view of our new Great Dane, Auggie (August). My stepdad’s brother owned Auggie but gave him to us. Auggie is a joy to have around. My stepdad loves his new dog so much and Auggie is so loyal to him.

  • How to treat a chicken for different ailments

    Anyone who has chickens will know that something is ‘always‘ wrong with at least one of them. I will cover five different problems that chickens can have and what to do about it. But before we start, you should know I am not a vet. I am only sharing how I’ve cared for my animals in the past.

    1. Eggbound – this is a very common problem, but also very serious. The name is pretty much self-explanatory. Several of my hens have gone through this. Sometimes, it’s better to leave them alone but if something is very wrong, then it can be deadly. Never try to squeeze the egg out or else you might break the egg inside of her which can lead to a more serious problem. Don’t move fast around her or handle her a lot, this could make her more stressed out. What we have done in the past is removed her from the stressful coop. Try to keep her very calm. If you have a small dog or cat crate, lay down some hay or woodchips, lay a blanket or towel over the top, and set her inside in a dark and quiet barn or shed. Let her stay there overnight. If she isn’t any better in the morning and still looks very much in pain, then you can fill a small bucket with warm water and Epsom salt and set her in. (I know this sounds crazy but it works) This should relax her. Offer her apple cider vinegar mixed with water. If she isn’t better by now, you can try dripping an eyedropper full of warm olive oil into her vent. Do this very gently and try not to scare her. If none of these methods work within 2-5 hours, there may be something more seriously wrong with her.
    2. Bumblefoot– yes, bumblefoot is a thing. Bumblefoot is when your chicken’s feet get cut somehow and dirt or manure gets into the cut. If the bottom of their feet looks like black or red sores, you know it’s bumblefoot. If you notice any of your chickens are limping, you might want to catch them and take a look. This has happened to a number of our chickens. The first thing we did was take the chicken inside and prepare a bin of Epsom salt warm water. Try to keep your chicken calm while she sits in the water, hopefully, she will eventually relax. Let her feet soak for about twenty minutes. Take her out and dry off her feet with an old rag. Then wrap her infected feet with disposable vet wrap, tight, but not too tight. If her feet are extremely infected, you may need to purchase a wound spray for her feet. Keep an eye on her feet and rewrap if needed.
    3. Sinus infection– If you notice one of your chickens is breathing heavy, sneezing, coughing, or has a running, drippy nose, they may have a sinus infection. What we did was try to keep the chicken calm and we put it in a dog crate in our laundry room. We bought VetRx for the chicken which cured her and then put her back out there with the other chickens, keeping a close eye on her day to day.
    4. Pasty butt– Yes, yes, I know this one sounds gross, and it is. Pasty butt happens when manure gets caught in the feathers near a chicken’s vent. I treat my chickens for this at least once or twice a year. It can be very bad- even deadly. The way I’ve always rid my chickens of it is not as easy as it sounds. First, gather your supplies: Disposable gloves (optional), a rag, a bucket of warm soapy water, scissers. Be sure to wear old clothes, cause this gets messy. If you make sure the water is warm, it makes it a whole lot easier. Get one of your chickens and set it on your knee. Make sure the bucket is right in front of you. Put on your gloves, and first try to gently pull out any of the dried manure near its vent. After you’ve gotten as much out as you can with your hands, dip the rag in the warm water and try to get as much manure out of the chicken’s feathers as possible. Warning: You will get very wet. If some of the manure is super dried and you are unable to get it out, you can cut it out with scissors. But be sure not to cut the chicken’s skin.
    5. Injuries from predators- We have only had two chickens survive being attacked by predators. One of which was hardly injured at all. The other, who is often referred to as The Purple Hen, was severely injured from the animals that she was attacked by. The best way to treat injuries, depending on where they are, is to flush them out with warm salt water and a syringe, wrap the injuries, and use medicine. The medicine I recommend is called Blu-Kote. Warning: This treatment may result in a purple chicken. See my post, “The Purple hen” on the home page, for more information on injured chickens.

    There you have it! Five illnesses chickens can get and how to treat them! I hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions, comment below.

  • Bluebirds in the woodstove

    I was playing outside one day and was near my stepdad’s workshop. Inside his workshop is a woodstove like the one in the house, to keep it nice and warm in winter. So obviously there would be a tin chimney coming out the side of the workshop. I stopped in my tracks, for I heard a strange noise. It was almost like a banging noise, clearly against tin. I slowly walked towards the workshop. I listened for a bit and was sure there was coons in the tin chimney. However, the sound coming from the chimney was a lot lighter than the sound a coon could make. I walked inside the workshop and looked around. Then I opened the woodstove. Of course, there wasn’t a fire burning. I gasped when I saw what was inside. Two dead bluebirds and one live one which had just apparently made its way from the chimney to the stove, which explained the noise. I tried grabbing the little bird, but it flew right out of the stove and into the rafters of the workshop. I opened the garage door and hoped he would fly out. I don’t know if he ever did but I’m guessing he was back to flitting about in the treetops with the other birds in no time. The bluebirds had apparently made a nest in the chimney which eventually rotted and made part of the chimney disinigrate. They continued to get into the chimney and the woodstove to this very day but we try not to let them die.

  • “There’s cows running down the driveway!”

    One morning, just as the sun had risen, I was about to go outside and take care of the animals. Just as I walked into the mudroom, I saw my stepdad, Patrick, at the window on the door. He turned and said, “Payton, there’s 9 or 10 cows out in the field!” I hurried to the window and sure enough, there was a bunch of beef cows grazing in the corner of the field. (we don’t own any cows yet). I was baffled. Just then, Mama awoke and joined us at the door. “They must belong to Al.” Patrick said. I went outside and continued my chores. After my morning chores, I went over to the field and took a look at the cows. (See picture above.) After a while, they began to run off down the driveway. One thing I never thought I’d say was, “There’s cows running down our driveway!” They all took off full speed. We headed over to the man’s house who owned the cows, so Patrick and I accompanied him down through the woods and hillside to find where the cows had broken through the fence and got out. After the adventure was over, there was no trace of cows in our field except a heap of cowpies. This same thing has happened several times since then and now I always smile when I see the cows in our field because I know it will be yet another story to tell.

  • The purple hen

    I was outside doing my check to make sure all the animals were okay at about lunchtime. It was cold outside, for it was close to Christmas. I suddenly spotted one of the white hens laying in the run and she looked very injured. I inspected her a bit closer and sure enough, she’d been attacked by some predator. She was bleeding and her wings were hurt very badly. I brought her inside and we lodged her in our laundry room in a box. We tried to get as much blood off her wings as possible. She slept inside that night. The next day, my mama cut two little holes in a towel, clipped the towel over the top of the box and put the chicken’s legs through the two holes, so that it wouldn’t further injure its wings. We went to Tractor Supply and bought a medicine called blu-kote. Its a purple liquid that one can sponge onto the injured area of an animal. We flushed the wound with saltwater and then applied the blu-kote.  It was hilarious- we owned a purple chicken! Soon the chicken, whom we named Violet, recovered and we put her back in the coop with the others. We assumed the blu-kote would wear off, but no- she remained a purple chicken. The next few days, I didn’t see much of Violet but didn’t think much of it. Then, one day, mama came inside and said, “Payton, I found Violet! She’s stuck under the roosting bars!” At first, I was utterly confused, then once I arrived at the hen house, I realized what all the commotion was about. In our chicken pen, the roosting bars are above a platform where the boxes to make cleanup easier are and below them is a low area where some of the ducks lodge. (see picture above) And somehow, Violet had got herself stuck under there between two posts and the wall. When I finally got her out I realized she was just as injured again, from trying so hard to get out herself. So again we applied blu-kote and flushed out the wound and after a while, she recovered and grew back her feathers. But she is still a bit purple, even though months have passed since that adventure occured. And it remains one of my favorite stories to tell. 

  • A snake in the hen house

    The sun had just risen and I was walking outside to care for the animals. When I got to the hen house, I went inside to get the feed to put in the run. I froze seconds after opening the door because something thick and black was hanging on the chicken wire door. I could tell from the scales that it was a black snake. I like snakes, but not when they are messing with my chickens. The tail disappeared. I cringed when I opened the nesting box and saw a huge blacksnake taking up both nesting boxes, fixing to eat some eggs. The snake was clearly startled so he slithered over the side of the boxes and onto the ground, hiding behind a bale of pine shavings. I grabbed a shovel quickly, then moved the bale to expose the snake. I tried ever so hard to pick up the snake with the shovel but he was able to get away and slither back through the chicken wire into the coop. Before he got completely through the wire, I did something quite stupid. I dropped my shovel and lunged forward to grab the snake’s tail. He wrapped around a roosting bar and was able to pull away from me eventually. Then he slithered out the chicken door and into the run. I grabbed my shovel and raced outside. The snake was at the edge of the woods. I slid my shovel underneath him and then threw him far into the woods, then ran to where I threw him and hit him with a stick a few times. He lashed out at me in anger but I continued hitting him with the stick and I think I even hit him with the shovel a few times. He probably slithered away and died, and I never saw him again. But I sure did have a story to tell when I came back into the house that day and it remains one of my favorite stories to tell.

  • The mysterious crow from the valley

    It was a warm day in August and my friend Natalie and I were picking up sticks in the yard. A day prior, my favorite rooster, Waldo, went missing. Suddenly I froze and my friend and I exchanged looks. We heard a repetitive crowing coming from the valley. I recognized it as Waldo’s crowing; his crows were always more like a shriek. My heart raced. “Do you hear it?” I asked my friend. “Yeah!” We ran back to the porch and put our boots on because we had been barefoot. We raced down into the valley which was a long strip of a field cleared for a power line with trees lining the sides. We hadn’t gotten far before we heard repetitive barking getting closer and closer. We hurried back home and my stepdad accompanied us back down into the valley. We walked for what seemed like ages, following the sound of the rooster crowing. Finally, we reached a trailer. There were about ten dogs in small kennels on one side of the yard and a trailer and a barn were side by side. For what only seemed like an acre lot, the folks that lived there sure had a heap of animals. We walked towards the house and immediately noticed a trio of turkeys coming our way. They started pecking my friend, so I whacked them with a stick and they eventually ran off. There were various animal pens that contained: pigs, tons of chickens, ducks, and more turkeys and dogs. There were tons and tons of baby chicks roaming around the small farm. A small chicken coop that was open caught my eye. There was a mama hen with about fifteen chicks inside, yet the cage was open and was nasty as can be, also lacking a food and water supply. I also noticed that the turkeys were in the cage killing the chicks. We knocked on the door and asked if the folks had seen our rooster, Waldo, and they said they hadn’t. Then we asked them about the chicks in the cage. The woman put it bluntly, “The hen hatched ‘em herself so I ain’t takin’ care of ‘em. You can have ‘em if you want ‘em.” We went over to get a closer look and realized that one of the chicks was laying on the floor of the coop, seemingly dead. I don’t know why I did it, but I gently picked up the dead chick and discovered something; the chick wasn’t dead. “Patrick, can we take it home and try to nurse it back to health?” I asked, for the chick looked almost identical to Waldo. At first, my stepdad just laughed but after a while, he agreed, and soon we were walking back home in the August heat with a chick in my hands. When we got home, Natalie and I raced inside. We got a plastic bucket and I ran out to the hen house to grab some wood chips. Then we laid the chick in the wood chips. It was cool inside and I hoped that the chick was only overheated. We gave it some water with a dropper and even fed it crushed chicken feed. I made a solution to strengthen his electrolytes and he had even started to stand up a bit. I wish I could tell you that we nursed the chick, whom we named Ace, back to health and that he became the new rooster of our flock, but sadly, that isn’t what happened. We’d let Ace rest for a while and then came back to check on him and he was dead. I think that God led us to find Ace by the crowing of that mysterious rooster. At least Ace died happily. We never found Waldo, but every time I hear the crow of our new rooster, I smile and think of him.

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