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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Motherhood.....

Late May our first child was born in the wee hours of a warm muggy morning.  We happened to be adopting but I was lucky enough to have been there for her since the beginning, and was also lucky enough to be part of her birth.  As you can imagine we have been busy since then!  I only have now recently been claiming my brain back from sleep deprivation...

Crawling out of the lovey baby newborn haze is difficult!  But I'm sure you will all be seeing more of her on this blog.  I have found a renewed interest in writing since Baby has come into our life.... I think it is because I feel like I more aware of the world and its shape and contours, and of my own place in it.  I imagine what it would be like if my own mother wrote a blog before she passed....

Here is Baby....  Our house has blossomed in bright spots of Pink in every hue....since before her we didn't own anything pink at all....and we adore her....adore her so much....


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Deep litter failure....kinda....

Just a quick chicken post!

It's been a while since I posted so I thought i would make sure I post about my FAILURES....or hindsights....just as reminder that with all the planning I did I completely failed in some aspects!

Our winter finally...wintered...and we had gotten down to -65 degrees at one point.  The chickens were handling the cold fine.  They weren't ecstatic about it, but they were showing no real signs of stress besides slowing down on the egg making.   As most know I have been using the deep litter method in my coop to try and heal heat it up a bit.  I started with a small amount of river sand left over from the summer that I couldn't quite get out, then I added a layer of pine shavings, then a layer or bed straw.  I added some straw here and there and made sure to sprinkle BOSS every once in a while so that the chickens could mix it up a bit.  I know they were mixing it up a bit because some mornings I would go in there and it looked like small bombs went off, as there were holes in the bedding everywhere. 

Fast forward to the deep freeze...

I believe that some of the bedding must have gotten wet, and then froze.  In fact I think back on those weeks of heavy cold and I don't remember really seeing any of their customary digging pits for a while.  I figured that for some reason the lowest layer of the deep litter froze solid.  I figured when it started warming up and it was okay for the chickie to go out in the run then I would go in there and do a big stir. 

Fast forward to the crazy WARMTH....

so we went from -65 degrees to 25 degrees in the matter of a week....and the temperatures stayed above 10 degrees at night.  Everything began dripping and melting.  The layer of frozen stuff at the bottom of the coop began composting at a incredibly fast rate, and was being fed by what I assume was frozen moisture that melted.  So the other day I open it up and get a whiff of ammonia.  I can guess that it means there is moisture in their somewhere where it isn't suppose to be and that the ventilation wasn't taking care of it.  I also noticed the chickies weren't digging down into the bedding at all. So I got my chicken coop outfit on....coveralls, poopy boots, face mask and rubber gloves got all the chickies into their run on a warm day, and dug into the bedding.  It was SUPER hot.  The coop filled immediately with hot humid moisture, literally billowing from the coop floor. The bottom layer was rich and dark and way too moist.  It smelled like a mix of really great compost, and ammonia.

I would be excited but I'm months away from actually having a garden.  We still have at least three feet of snow on my beds.  So I ended up having to remove most of the composting stuff with too much moisture and put them in garbage bags next to the coop.  Because apparently I forgot to create a space for the compost!

*smacks head*

I left some of the more drier stuff in there and just added more bed straw and mixed it up a bit.  I dosed the chickens with some oregano oil in their water to try and head off any type of respiratory illnesses they might get but so far they don't show signs of getting sick.  I also have been leaving all of the ventilation slats open....at least during the day when the temperatures are more mild.

So...

Any advice will be much appreciated! 

The great part is that I am taking an online Cold Climate Permaculture design course, so it really makes me aware of what better planning and thought would have helped out with! 


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chick-cicles and warmish Holidays....

Well the chickens are NOT quite chick-cicles. 

The Holidays have rolled around and we are are pretty much relieved to see the cold weather show up and stay for good after the odd unseasonably warm and wet winter start.  We finished the changes to make the coop more winter resistant and I thought I would post what I am doing in that department.... 



We switched the chicken waterer to a 5 gallon bucket with a 250 watt in-water heater with a built in thermostat and nipples on the bottom.  So far so good!  They drink from it, the nipples haven't froze yet, though I dread having to haul the five gallons of water out there at least I don't have to refill it nearly as often.  The only problems I have run into is that I have to raise it as I raise the straw floor level (as you can see in the picture it needs raising again) and for some odd reason the chickens stop drinking from it...or can't get water from it as well...or something.....when the water level drops to about three inches.  I have not figured out why really.  The only reason I figured it out it was happening was because every morning with their hot chicken food mash breakfast I bring a cup or two of warm water with a touch of vinegar for them to drink if they feel like it (since the in-water heater is in the bucket I can't add the vinegar to that water cause it will corrode the metal) and when the water in the bucket level drops they are absolutely super thirsty in the morning. 

As you can also see from the picture I only have a 60 watt regular bulb on a timer, and a 50 watt red heat bulb that stays on continuously to heat the coop.  On the wall I have a small low watt heating pad plugged in for when it gets really cold at night.  I have been surprised at how well the coop and chickens are performing.  I have a remote thermometer that shows me live readings of the temperature and the humidity and keeps records of the lows and highs and I am obsessed with checking on it a billion times during the day and before I sleep.  They haven't shown any signs of being stressed or frostbite or even of really being cold.  So far the coldest it has gotten outside the coop is -45 degrees.  Though I do worry a bit about them getting bored.  I try and open the door to the covered run area for them on the warmer days but most of the time they prefer to sit inside and dig through the bedding for BOSS and forgotten treats.  I get 5-7 eggs from them a day, and it's amazing not to have to buy eggs anymore!  There were a few days where the eggs would freeze before I got there but now the girls bury the eggs once everyone is done laying for the day.  I have to be extra special careful to keep the straw clean and check thoroughly for buried eggs but so far I stopped getting frozen eggs.  

I also have been playing with ways to add a few degrees of heat when the weather gets really cold in the next month or two.  It is known to get well below -60 to -70 some days...so I'm planning on it happening! I bought a microwavable 'thermo' type disc that is used for pet beds.  It is supposed to release heat for 10 hours but I found that in my conditions with only works a few hours at most.  It helps in a pinch and is easy to do for nights that I know will be cold.  You can see it in the picture ...it's the weird pick disc being held up by rocks on the waterer.

Other than that the chickens are happy being chickens.  I had a brief battle with them to try and get them to stop pecking at the blue board insulation we put up, which we should have thought about before we installed it all. lol.    I took one of the tamer hens to the school for a show an tell day where I did a little speech about them and showed the eggs and such.  The kids were utterly fascinated and I'm officially known as the Chicken Lady.  The elementary school teachers have told me that they have an incubator and so I'm going to try and get them some eggs for them to hatch in the spring.  My rooster has stopped crowing since it has gotten chilly but he is still louder than everyone else and is incredibly bossy. 

As it is Small business Saturday I encourage everyone to buy a few of your Christmas gifts  from small shops this year!   There are tons of them that are amazing ...here:  www.Etsy.com

A couple that are my personal favorites that I buy from frequently are:

Asiannataq Nay's Shop (my cousin): ASIANNATAQ
Honeyrun Farm (my honey supplier):  HONEYRUN FARM

Please feel free to add links to your favorite shops in the comments!

And now some random photos!

We adopted a dog that was ill and we were told that she has never been in heat and would probably not go into heat, so we weren't too anxious to get her fixed.  ....She had 7 pups.  I engage in Puppy therapy several times a day. 

Everything is covered in frost

I have made a bunch of doll Christmas Tree ornaments for sale with real fursies.  More info here: www.SalmonberryThoughts.Etsy.com


New product in my store!  Found a really awesome use for coltsfoot leaf.  www.SalmonberyOrigins.Etsy.com




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kefir and Caribou....

In the last couple of years I have slowly been trying to make our diets more healthy.  And yes it's pretty much me making changes and dragging my husband along with me!   In a village in the Alaskan boonies with extremely limited access to what normal America sees as a requirement to having a healthy diet (like veggies and fruit) it's been a learning and seemingly endless experience.  What we have found that works for us is by making a few small changes every few months, pretty much addition and subtraction of one or two things.  The months in between the changes give us time to adjust our taste buds and give us a chance to see of the change works for us or not.  For instance the first change I made was to purchase a 50 pound bag of whole wheat flour.  It pretty much began our adventure into cooking our own foods and creating our own healthy recipes....like dutch oven no-knead bread, and healthy breakfast muffins, and whole wheat pizza....  the list goes on!  And it only cost me about $50 for the initial flour and shipping and another $20.00 for the food safe buckets and lids to store the extra.  I lost ten pounds just from the single change. 

Amongst the long list of changes we have made (including adding chickens to our household for the eggs/meat/compost for veggies!) I do often experiment with other means of making our diet more and more healthy and natural.  Our diet is pretty meat heavy sometimes...low inventory of veggies and fruit at the store...or we already burned through our own stores of canned and frozen veggies and fruit.  Our ancient subsistence diet is actually supposed to be 45% non-meat, which is really the hardest part!  .....so I began looking at ways to help our poor abused guts from these lapses.  literally.

So we tried kefir.  Kefir is a 'fermented' (I really don't like that term for some reason!) food....you add a few grains of kefir to some milk and a day later you get a thickened version of milk that tastes like unsweetened yogurt.  You strain the grains from the thickened milk and start the process over again.  I was extremely hesitant about the stuff but gave it a try anyways....and I loved it!  My yogurt loving husband did NOT.  Which I thought was hilarious.  I loved the tart and yogurty taste and enjoy it as part of my breakfast (and I save a bit for my chickens a couple times a week)  I throw it into a cup with some honey that I get from Honeyrun Farm to sweeten it, a few pieces of frozen banana or strawberries,  and eagerly drink it down every morning.  I found that to get my husband to drink it a couple times a week I have to water it down with soy milk (he is lactose intolerant of course) and add more sweetener and some vanilla.   But this little gem has really completed our changing healthy diet!

One if the things that I have found has been a barrier in having kefir here in the boonies is having a steady supply of milk.  What I have found that has worked is that I keep the batches small...only keeping enough grains to produce a little more than a cup of kefir a day....and by mixing my milk sources.  Our house relies on the super shelf stable Ultra pasteurized milk that you can literally keep on the shelf for a year or more, but this milk doesn't really lend itself to a thick healthy kefir...so what I do is mix a tablespoon of powdered whole milk ( LINK) into it to give it a bit more lactose and thickness.  When the store does have 'normal' milk, I buy a small amount of it to 'freshen' our grains.   So far so good! 

The caribou have finally arrived in the mountains and everyone is scrambling to harvest and store enough meat for the winter.  Our weather has been chaotic...going from normal low temperautres to spring time temperatures with rain...and back down again.  Confusing all the animals...humans included! 

Hope this finds you all healthy and happy!.....and now some pics!

Our chickens are now producing about 3-5 eggs a day!  such pretty eggs! 

My brother-in-law drinking coffee outside of the family cabin

And actual picture of my normally stoic husband...smiling!

A bull caribou at the verge of rut surveys the path ahead as he guides his small herd of females

In a land without trees and brush we get pretty good at carefully sneaking up on caribou...Patience is a must have!

My husband performs the ritual first cut at the the third vertebrae....

A caribou herd wonders back north...pretty confused by the warm weather...

Kefir!  I also found that dried strawberries work well as a healthy addition!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cloudberry/Salmonberry/Akpik Jam Recipe

Quick post!

We are busy busy busy, processing meat for the winter, picking berries and freezing them too, prepping the chicken coop, working on vehicles and basically running around babbling and surviving off off coffee and quick meals.

This year I didn't get to do my usual slew of floral jellies but I am going to get to do my berry jellies and jams.  I thought I would share the cloudberry recipe. Cloudberries are the arctic most beloved of berry!  They are also called salmonberries (though they are a different berry) or Akpiks in our language.  This year was a good berry year!


4 cups of berries
1/2 lemon or a couple of tablespoons* of lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1/2 packet of Surejell pectin
4 cups sugar

*I guess abit on the amount of lemon juice! You just need a good splash of it in there.

Set aside two cups of the berries - I choose the 'pretty' ones without blemishes and cleaned of leaves and such.  Take the other two cups and press them through a strainer, retrieving as much of the pulp and juice as is possible. Take your time. I repeatedly mix the seed/pulp with water and then press through the strainer.  Take the juice/pulp and add clean water to it to make two cups of juice.

Add this juice and the berries to a small saucepan (big enough to handle twice as much as the juice and berries) . Add lemon juice, and boil for 2 minutes. Add butter and stir till melted (you can omit the butter, it is just there to reduce the amount of foam). Add Surejell and stir and boil for 1 minute.

Add sugar (you can add more sugar, about 6 cups total to get more jam, but I like mine to be more intense berry flavor, do not use less than 4 cups because the sugar is needed to prevent the berries from going bad.)  Boil for another minute while stirring slowly.

Makes about 6 cups of jam, or a little more than 32 oz. 

Notes:

Put in hot sterile jars if you plan to preserve them and you can hot process them in a hot bath to ensure they will stay safe.  I sell some jam online but most of it is eaten up right away and it never lasts long.

You can strain ALL of the seeds out to make a very, very pretty jelly!

You can also save the seeds, grind them up to  powder and mix them with a  little bit of olive and and use them to buff the dead skin away from your face, they contain all types of anti-aging goodness that brighten your skin!

And now some pretty cloudberry pictures!