5/1/08 - 5th Day - After Breakfast. It seems to have been spring here for some time, but as usual we continue to have wild swings in temperatures. After having 90's most of the week during Ranchfest, we woke up to 34 degrees and some frost the other morning. That is the second time in a fortnight that we have had mid-30's in the morning. Well, so some of my onions bolted and started putting up a flower stalk. Why? I asked, and looked it up on the internet. Well, it seems that onions don't like wild 50 degree swings in temps, and some of them probably thought summer was over and it was fall and time to put up a flower. Not much to do but pick those, even though the onion itself was still pretty small. I'll eat them anyway.
Today we are expecting "blowtorch". The blowtorch is when a dry-line goes through, and we get strong winds from the Southwest. Southwest of us is the deserts of Mexico. So when they are calling for 94 degrees and very high dry southwest winds, we can expect the blowtorch. It is usually about 5 degrees warmer here than they call for, so let's just say it will be pretty brutal today, and the wildfire warnings are out. How many weeks have you had when you get an almost freeze, and the flame-thrower in the same week?
The rest of the garden has faired pretty well, only some of my basil, my mustard greens, and even some of my lettuce has bolted already here in early spring. The grasshoppers have devastated my cabbage leaves. I bought some grasshopper semaspores from arbico-organics and that is supposed to eventually control our grasshopper population... that and the chickens. The semaspores are not supposed to affect the chickens or anything else but the grasshoppers. We are getting quite a few green tomatoes, and I even see some peas emerging.
Yesterday for supper we were planning on having a Quiche made out of stinging nettles (we call it "itch weed") and eggs. We learned in the Perennial Vegetables book that stinging nettles are actually a very good food, and they are very high in vitamins. If you cook them for over 1 minute, the irritating toxin disappears, and you are left with a very tasty perennial vegetable. We get quite a bit of itch weed in different places on the land, particularly down by the creek. Well, we found some itch weed yesterday, but it is still too small and there is not yet enough of it to make a whole meal, so we improvised and picked a bunch of spinach from the garden. We added the onions that I picked because they had bolted, and our first two red tomatoes of the year, and about 8 of our farm fresh eggs. It made a very nice Quiche with a side of garden salad. Now, I know that some of you older folk may have a very poor joke from a book in the 70's running through your mind... something like "real men don't eat Quiche". Well they do.
Ok, so I know how you so love pictures. Judy over at Tabletop Homestead posted a picture of her grandchildren hiding in an elderberry bush. Well, not to be outdone, here is a picture of our little Sarah Grace hiding in our new elderberry bush:
Speaking of Judy, she has a great post up this morning on Lard for Lighting. I just happened to be working on the same issue here yesterday, and I have been running several tests on lard lamps. Here is a successful lard lamp (candle):
That is pure lard from our own pigs, and it is burning via a wick made from the rope out of a cheap mop, which is suspended by a coil of wire. We added 3 drops of essential cinnamon oil, and you know... it smells just like a cinnamon candle. I burned these fat candles all night out on the porch (about 12 hours) and each used a little more than 1 tablespoon of lard. This, friends, is a very affordable and easy petroleum substitute. I also manufactured a very large wick lard candle, it was made out of 4 of these rope mop wicks all wrapped tight together. I made a larger wire coil to hold the wick, and it all worked fine - except that the coils weren't tight enough and the candle produced copious amounts of black smoke. However, the candle did work and produced a lot of light. We also could have easily cooked by it. So my testing will continue. I want to manufacture some good lard lamps that will produce a lot of light without too much smoke. I figured that about 5-7 of the lard candles (as pictured above) would be sufficient to light the inside of our small cabin (no serious reading though), and they would provide some heat too. So a quart of pure lard would likely last us from 7 to 10 days for lighting alone during the winter, which means that 28 quarts would get us through the winter for minimum lighting, which means the lard from 2 pretty good sized pigs. That wouldn't be a problem at all. I can see we will likely be butchering from 3-5 hogs a year, and as I said in the previous post, we will likely be letting them get much larger in order to get much more lard per hog. The Siffords came over and I showed them my lard candles and I told them how important I think it is going to be for us to get off petroleum products. I think this is certainly one of our answers... and, they smell like cinnamon! I will be talking more about lard lamps and lard lighting in the future.
Ok, here is one of our peach trees. We have about 5 peach trees, and 3 of them are really loaded with peaches this year.
One of Tracy's Californian rabbits had bunnies yesterday. She has a regular business going on rabbits now. A man is supposedly coming out this weekend to buy three of them, which just happens to be how many were born yesterday. I told her that the money has to go to feed and rabbit housing, and that she will not likely see a profit for a very long time. She understands. She is planning on selling rabbits at the Funtier Days celebration in Santa Anna later in the month. I believe Funtier Days is the third weekend in May, which would make it the 17th and 18th this year, in case any of you are planning to come down. It has become a great tradition for us, and we are really looking forward to it. Anyway, here is a picture of one of Tracy's rabbits:
Hey, I gotta run. Y'all be cool!
Your servant in Christ Jesus,