Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hope Your Weekend is Happy

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We are spending our weekend assembling rabbit cages and kissing chickens. Well... I'm not kissing chickens.

- Sarah

Horned Tomato Worm

Look at what we found in the garden yesterday! He was sitting on a tomato plant. We weren't sure if it was poisonous or not and decided not to give him to the chickens. This horned tomato worm was about four inches long and about 3/4 inch round in diameter. Huge!

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- Sarah

Liquid Gold!

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Isn't there something else called "liquid gold"? I think so... I just hope it's not dirty, because I am actually referring to honey. Anywho-- we secretly harvested one frame worth of honey from the hive today. Don't tell the bees.

We were just curious as to how our very own honey tasted and just couldn't wait until late spring or even next summer. Honey harvesting officially ended in August, but our hive was started a bit late (June) and we didn't get to harvest anything.

We won't be taking anymore until late spring since the bees will need it to get through the winter. And we are supposed to have a pretty harsh winter this year. Arg! That usually means lots of snow.

In the mean time, we will be holding on tight to our one tiny jar of honey.

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- Sarah

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Beehive of Activity

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The hive is about ten times busier now than it was in this video update from early August. I think it's a combination of new bees being hatched everyday and the hive's last foraging efforts as flowers die off for the year. Check out the video!

YouTube Video

- Sarah

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Naked? Naked Neck chickens of course!

Okay, get ready to keep a straight face and don't judge me... But I love these chickens! They are so stinkin' cute! I admit that at some times I have been known to have odd taste, but these chickens really are special. Don't tell anyone, but in two years when our current egg-layers start to slow down on production, I am adding two of these sweeties to the flock. I've read that they are "cold hearty"... I wonder if that means snow too?

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Exerpt from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Other names: Transylvania Naked Neck
Country of origin: Romania
Nicknames: Turken
Dual purpose breed

Naked Neck chickens
Despite its highly unusual appearance, the breed is not particularly known as an exhibition bird, and is a dual-purpose utility chicken. They lay a respectable number of light brown eggs, and are considered desirable for meat production because they need less plucking and they have a meaty body. They are very good foragers and are immune to most diseases. The breed is also reasonably cold hardy despite its lack of feathers. Naked Neck roosters carry a single comb, and the neck and head often become very bright red from increased sun exposure. This breed has approximately half the feathers of other chickens, making it resistant to hot weather and easier to pluck.
Recognized color varieties include: Black, White, Buff, and Red in the United States.

- Sarah

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review :: The Back to Basics Handbook

The Back to Basics Handbook: A Guide to Buying and Working Land, Raising Livestock, Enjoying Your Harvest, Household Skills and Crafts, and More
by Abigail R. Gehring

After a disappointing "homesteading" book a month or so ago, I really scoured the Internet reading reviews on other books of a similar nature. I was able to find this title at the local bookstore, Mountain Bookshop.

Wow! Just wow. I love the material covered in this book. Albeit, not every subject is covered in great detail, this book will give you the basics in everything from building your homestead and wind systems to livestock and fruit trees. It is crazy how much I have learned from this one book.

While buying or building on land doesn't apply to me yet, I really appreciate the thought that was given into this chapter. The author goes into how to raise a barn, tap into a water supply, and build various types of fences. Fences apply to everyone.

The chapter on gardening was also especially helpful. It gave detailed descriptions as well as handy little charts on natural pest control. I loved that. Who wants to buy expensive pesticides (not to mention contaminate your food) when you can use simple wood ash to get rid of common pests like aphids? This chapter also got me interested in home fish farming. Something I would have never thought of without this book. When you think of livestock it's the usual: cows, goats, sheep, horses, pigs. This book brings the underdogs into play: rabbits, fish, bees. Most people can only raise the underdogs and I appreciate that smaller homesteads were taken into consideration.

Butchering and preserving is always needed in a book like this and the author also thought to include maple sugaring and bread baking. I hope to put this whole section into use someday as we have access to a sugar maple tree. The book also covers fiber arts -spinning, dying, weaving- and the basics of making candles, soaps, and handwoven baskets.

Really, what else do you need to know? This book covers everything. I love any book that I can open right up and answer a question I have about this or that. It has also opened my eyes to other aspects of homesteading or self-sufficient living that aren't as commonly written about. Happy reading!

- Sarah

Rabbitry Plans Update :: September 2011

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You haven't heard about rabbits here lately, so I'll give you a bit of an update. The French angora breeder I am buying from is planning on a new litter or two in November from two breeding pairs, chocolate doe/blue buck pair and a smoke pearl doe/ruby-eyed white buck pair. So I'm really interested to see what those two litters end up looking like. Rabbit color genetics seems a little confusing to me. I think I just need someone to explain it to me... verbally.

So on a rabbit arrival timeline, we're looking at about January. In November the breeder I'm buying from is returning from a rabbit show so she may have something for me then. Who knows. It's hard to wait so long for animals I've been anticipating for months, but I just remind myself that I am waiting for purebred French angoras and French angora breeders are few and far between here in California.

Anyways-- also on the rabbit front, I have decided to build a simple "shed" for my future rabbits. I say shed because it's only 10 feet by 10 feet... not barn sized or anything. It should actually fit pretty snug between the Frühlingskabine's deck and house. This should keep out any stray dogs, foxes, cats, or raccoons.

Sorry about the dim picture. Here's what I have planned: a slanted roof (absolutely necessary here where it snows) and walls that are plywood about 4 feet up and then lattice for the top 2-3 feet. Lattice is a little more expensive, but it will look nice, match the deck which has lattice, and it should provide adequate ventilation for the rabbits. The roof will be made of corrugated PVC roofing because after the "chicken ark".... I am never shingling anything ever again.

This is the floor plan. The door is in the center so I can have a row of cages on either side. With a 10'x10' shed, I can fit three (30"x36") cages side by side in both rows. If I stack my cages two high I can fit a maximum of twelve cages in this shed. Theoretically, I could stack the cages three high, but I don't want to have to lean over that much to feed and care for them on a daily basis. Trevor would never approve of twelve rabbits, but he really won't be able to see how many I've got in there anyhow... hehehe.

- Sarah

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dust Bath Fun

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The girls love when I clean out their coop every week. I guess our sandy soil makes for the perfect dust bath. I wouldn't know... but I'll take their word for it.

YouTube Video

- Sarah

Friday, September 9, 2011

Smells Like Rain

A storm is a brewing here at the Frühlingskabine. It has been hot and humid today which is completely out of the ordinary for us Californians. High humidity where we live in the mountains means rain for sure. It is so nice to smell the rain falling at the end of the summer. Fall is on it's way.

- Sarah

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hive Inspection :: September 2011

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Today I did a scheduled hive inspection and discovered that I had a varroa mite problem. This is common in hives.
Most of my beekeeping books say the most common treatment is to generously sprinkle powdered sugar on all the bees. This keeps the mites from being able to climb on to the bees and prompts the bees to clean the sugar (and mites) off of eachother.
Then I inserted a white plastic board under the hive coated with vegetable oil. When the mites fall through the screened bottom board they will stick to the plastic oil coated board. This board should make it easier to keep track of whether or not the mite infestation has decreased to a number the bees can manage themselves.

- Trevor

Kale Chips

Kale Chips :: recipe

First grow a giant kale plant. Done. Then snip off the best looking leaves. After the kale is cooked it shrinks a little, so keep that in mind when deciding how much to harvest. Rinse!

Lay the leaves flat and in one layer on a baking sheet. Brush the leaves with oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until crispy. Ten minutes usually does it.

See? Crispy, light, healthy kale chips!

- Sarah

Okonomiyaki... Frühlingskabine Style!

This recipe was taught to me by Katie, a Japanese exchange student I was friends with in high school. This particular batch was made using only Frühlingskabine veggies. So here's to you Katie!

Okonomiyaki :: recipe feeds an army

Shred and mix together 1/2 a head of cabbage, 3 carrots, and 1 large bunch of green onion.
Peel and dice 3 large potatoes. Boil in water until fully cooked. Mash the potatoes and then add to the veggie mixture.
Add 3 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 cup of flour and mix well. You want a sticky mixture, but not too potato-y looking. As if that made sense. If your mixture is too runny, add more flour. If it's too dry, add more milk. If it's too potato-y, add more flour and milk. The right mixture is more of a feeling than anything.

Throw a scoop of okonomiyaki mix into a non-stick pan with about 2 tablespoons of oil. Flatten your scoop out in the pan so it's flat like a pancake. Now wait for it to brown. Oil the top of your spatula so it doesn't stick when you flip it. Now flip it.

Cook until the second side is brown, and ta da! Pretty, yummy, crispy okonomiyaki! Most people can only eat two, so if you have extra mix, cover it and stick it in the fridge. Just remember to check the tansy before frying the next batch. You'll probably need to add some flour.

Now... I don't think okonomiyaki sauce is sold in America, but if you happen to find some... You're awesome. If you are like me and are waiting for the day you get to taste the real stuff, I'm told oyster sauce is close. Close. Slather 'em up and enjoy!

:: Ingredients ::
1/2 head cabbage
3 carrots
1 bunch green onion
3 large potatoes
3 eggs
Oyster sauce


Sorry we haven't posted in a bit. We have been (and still are) without Internet service for the last two weeks. Curse you AT&T! We are still writing and thinking of you... You just can't see it. We'll talk more soon.

- Sarah & Trevor