Journal 2021

A periodic journal of homesteading occurrences here:  farm and land happenings, weather events.  Location, the Hilltowns of western Massachusetts.
Hardiness Zone 5B, rural.
Most recent dates and posts are to the top.

February 28:  The howling and yipping of coyotes in the distance, about 3:30 am.  

February 23:  I’m doing fine, haven’t fallen in the snow since Feb 8.  We get more and more of it, along with a good ice storm somewhere in there – which actually wasn’t entirely a bad thing.  My crampons could purchase in that stuff!  And I had sufficient holes in the ground for my hiking poles to give me additional balance.  

Alas, on February 17th, shortly after the ice storm, I found Celeste – my favorite chicken – dead in her run.  She had such a good personality, but I did notice before all this winter happened that she was moving slower and not jumping as high as usual – it would usually take two tries to hop into the bin instead of just one.  (If I had the chance, I helped her.)  

Celeste the Hen:  Late April 2018 – February 17, 2021


She’d died in the run, not in the coop, and a whole bunch of snow and ice had slid off the roof and had blocked he entryway to the run.  Not being chicken-sized, I was unable to get through the chicken door from the coop to the run, so she had to spend the night out there in the run.  (Each trip down to the chickens takes a LOT out of me.)  The next day I got down there with an ice chipper, and was able to get myself into the run.  

Normally, I would have buried her.  (In soil, not snow.)  But that’s not possible here at this time of year.  So I left her out to continue the cycle of life, as close to the woods as I could get her.  

On the morning of the 22nd, I found something had found and taken her.  Paw prints were too collapsed, but by spacing and overall size, I think a fox.  

Rest in peace, dear Celeste!  

Today:  Bought two kitten-sized litter pans to give my chickens more liquid water, as their current pans are now full and frozen.  They will also eat snow, which does blow in and land in the runs.  

Snowed overnight, about 4 inches, but today’s temps:  29 – 37 F.  Right now we are having flurries (late afternoon).  

February 12:  Happy Asian Lunar New Year!  Remaining to be posted this month (and in most cases, still to be made):  Filipino Tripe (Kare Kare), Taiwanese Pork Rice Bowl, Korean Fried Vegetarian Tofu).  May get one more recipe in here by the end of February.  Hopefully a Vietnamese dish I tried to make in the past, but failed at.  

Temps:  5 to (less than 20) F.  

February 9:  I  don’t want to talk about yesterday evening, but I have to.  But first let’s do the other stuff.  Today temps 12 F to 23 F. It is snowing today, maybe up to five or so inches.  

Yesterday evening I went down to the chickens, about 400 feet from the house (or so).  Fed and watered.  On the way back up, about one fifth of the way from the closest coop, I fell into the snow.  Because of my bad knees PLUS the depth of the snow not giving me a purchase to stand up upon – despite the walking sticks – I could not get myself to stand.  Eventually, I had to “backstroke” back to that coop, pull myself up on the door handle, to stand.  And then walk home.  I’d ditched the backpack early on, as it was hindering me in that position. I think this took around 20 minutes but no real idea.  I knew I had to get upright to walk home somehow, and the skies were darker and darker.  The house itself was lit, but there was no light to guide me in actual footprints should darkness truly fall.  

Fortunately still light enough to get home.  I got in, leaving the backpack to wait, and took off all the snow-soaked garments.  Went to bed, and shivered for at least two hours after arrival back here. My cat mostly ignored the dilemma.  Okay, she’s not Titania, who would have cared…  I will note that the one egg I retrieved didn’t get crushed in my endeavors!

I need to find a neighbor who can keep in touch with me on a daily or  a semi-daily basis.  I have a couple of ideas for this. I will note WiFi and cell reception is terrible around here.  

February 1:   I finally ran out of bandwidth on my internet service through Hughesnet, last week.  I never had that happen before.   At any rate, couldn’t understand why the service was down so I called them on the land line.  They told me (mentioning if it had been a satellite problem, my phone would have been down as well).  They did extend a bit more coverage, but I decided to wait until today when the new month’s plan rolled in, to post to my blog area.  Considering we had a nasty cold snap in the interim, I figure I’ll post the temp ranges for the last few days.  Temps in Fahrenheit.  

Friday, Jan. 29:  Low to high:  minus 3 to plus 9, with severe wind, wind chill down to about minus 20.  I’d buckled in the quail outdoors with another tarp layer, and they were fine.  
Saturday, Jan 30:  Low to high:  Zero to plus 14.  The chicken egg I found was frozen/cracked.  I was able to use it anyway once it thawed.  
Sunday, Jan 31:  Low to high:  -7 to plus 23.  The minus 7 is the low end record for this winter to date.  Two eggs found, chilled but not yet frozen.  

And today?  Low to high:  plus 14 to ____.   And a blizzard oncoming.  It wasn’t to start snowing until this afternoon, but we now expect snow by about 10 AM today.  

Quail egg news:  None hatched.  To say I am disappointed is an understatement.  When they got delivered, I think they got left outside the PO structure overnight.  I will have to open them all up (outdoors) to see what if anything can be determined as to any embryos.  Then I can be more definitive.  I know I am guaranteed a 50% hatching rate, but if this was not the hatchery’s fault, I’m not going to cash in on that.  

7:20 am – a first band of light snow is now falling. 

January 23:  Day 17 for the quail eggs, no sign of activity.  

Temperature range:  5 F to 19 F.  High winds over the past night.  

January 21:  9 degrees F at 7 am – a drop of a degree since I got up to candle the quail eggs at 6:30.  Candled 60 eggs, rejected 8, but have no idea if the 52 I saved really are all containing embryos.  I will be checking the 8 to make sure they didn’t have embryos, which if any of them do, the process will be fatal (crack them open, outside, in other words).  This is my first time candling quail eggs, although I checked the first chicken eggs I tried hatching (or letting my broody hen hatch for me).  The dark shell spots that quail eggs have make this a bit challenging, so I saved any uncertain eggs.   The eggs are no longer being rotated, so the hopefully living embryos can orient themselves for hatching, rather than getting seasick or something (joking).  I am seriously looking forward to JUMBO quail – and some of their mamas had to be jumbo, considering the size of a few of these eggs – otherwise that had got to HURT during laying!

Tuesday I added a strand of 50 battery operated outdoor-rated Christmas lights to the outdoor quails’ housing.  Tired of them getting the proverbial “free ride”!  I am still not good at sex-venting them – which is the reason I ordered the Egyptian Jumbos this time – you can feather sex them once the feathers grow in.  

Wednesday, Archie the Speckled Sussex rooster was found dead. No loss, he was mean.  I tossed him in the woods.  I hope something gets dinner out of him, but he was frozen like a rock.  Cause of death unknown.  The Rhode Island White is now the main rooster in that group.  

Also, more dehydrating on deck  today.  Yellow squash and green (zucchini) squash.  The squashes are becoming chips (both with salt, and the former with nutmeg, and the latter with chipotle powder).  Tomatoes.   Jalapeños, done whole.   Bell pepper chunks.  Started the dehydrator at 9:30 AM, just about when it started snowing out there.  

I’ve been getting a chicken egg every other day, with two of them on Tuesday, for the last ten days.  Yes, they’re responding (somewhat) to increasing light.  

January 14: Temp range 26 – 36 F.  On and off snow showers.  

January 13:  Temp range 24 – 34 F.  Lightly overcast. 

Dehydrated potatoes and bell pepper yesterday (the potatoes were done this morning). The potatoes are my own Yukon golds (with a smattering of my reds in there as well.)  Quail eggs continue to incubate.  

Chickens and quail are doing fine.  

January 8:  Temp range 19-30 F.  Bright sun.

Dehydrating zucchini and grape tomatoes today.  First time I’ve ever run the unit indoors.  Feels weird.  Didn’t have the space at the old home, and onions really need to be outdoors due to a bit too much aroma.  

January 7:   Temperatures today:  21 F this morning to a high of 28F.  

60 quail eggs have started incubating.  Today is Day 0, they go to Day 14, when I stop them from being rotated.  About Day 18 I hope they hatch.  Eggs arrived yesterday, you let them sit overnight to adjust after all the transit jostling.  I was sent ten extra eggs.  Jumbo Egyptians.  

January 6:  It is 6 pm now, and dinner is in the oven. I spent a couple hours or so in the morning at the auto place getting front and rear brake pads and rotors replaced, along with a couple of filters for A/C and something else.  No, I don’t speak Auto.  Watched Flipper 101 with Tarek somebody on HGTV in the waiting room.  WHY OH WHY do these flipping imbeciles find a need to paint perfectly GOOD brick white??? (I gasped, as did the other woman waiting in the room.)  And in that 2 million dollar home, why oh why did they not put in some good under-counter drawers instead of cabinets?  AND why does HGTV run back to back episodes of the same show on the same day?  Vary it up, guys!!!  I ended up watching four of these things. (How many do they run in a day?)  

I will admit, the one home that was obviously in late foreclosure, anything, ANYTHING they did to it would be an improvement.  You know popcorn ceilings?  That one had stalactite ceilings!  I’ve never seen that before.  But the 2 million dollar house – when they removed the walls to open up the space – they had to make a sunken living room.  Sorry, the inner klutz in me would have walked right back out that door and into an escape car.  But at least they made that kitchen look good and not monochrome, though I suspect (they focus on the kitchen for about five seconds in each of these things) the layout would not be user-convenient.  And yeah, no drawers.  

At least Tarek brought the homeowner flippers into a tile outlet to pick out tiles and such.  No one was stuck with the Joanna Gaines taste in having verbiage splattered across all the walls.  

I think there’s a reason I don’t watch TV much.  

January 5:  The day starts overcast, at 30 F.  High of 34 F, 

It is official, now.  I have 4 pullets and 4 cockerels in the new coop.  At least two of the latter will need to end up in the freezer, soon.  (Or I could give them away to someone else’s freezer, which I’d rather not.)  One last barred rock had taken his time to develop, and the coloration was slightly iffy, too.  

Now, it is a matter of deciding when to cull.  (And, which two?)   Eventually it may have to be three.  4 hens is a bit low for two roosters.  

Beautiful hawk circling around the back acreage here just now (3:15 pm) when I went out to discard kitchen trash into compost.  Too far away to discover if it was “my” hawk but it was of similar size.  

Hoping to pick up the quail eggs for hatching tomorrow.  I do have some questions but we shall see.  

January 3: Mixed precipitation in the morning of the Second, which led me to postpone my 8:30 am appointment for front and rear brake pads and rotors, which my last visit to the car service shop about a week ago told me was screamingly essential.  I don’t want to roll down icy hills to an appointment on marginal brakes!  Rescheduled for the 6th.  Also early in the day.  Will bring lots of reading material.  They no longer have magazines for folks waiting for service to complete, to read.  Not that anything other than the one or two cooking magazines had ever drawn my interest there, anyway.  (There’s a Television, but I’d only be interested in cooking shows on it, anyway.  Not like a good movie would be on in the mornings.  Or that television ever broadcasts useful DIY home improvement shows any more, either.)  

Working on improving my WordPress viewer “experience” this month.  I finally see some way to use the new “block editing” in my favor, but there are some lumps on the road.  I set up the Blogroll/Links page you will find on the upper tab using it – but having issues getting graphics there to do what I want them to do.  Come on, this shouldn’t be so difficult!!!!   And I still can’t access the outdated blog-roll on the right side of the blog pages to edit (and now, mostly, remove that).  I can remove the ENTIRE right column where I want, but the rest of that I still find useful.  

Yesterday’s temps never got above 37 F.  Today, we start at 26 F.  Will wear the cleats to the chicken houses – it is not quite 7:30 am here as I type.  Overcast and shady.  

The ordered quail eggs will arrive this week.  I get to follow the USPS tracking system – last word they were in Ohio (which is where they are being shipped from).  I will guess Tuesday or Wednesday.  

homesteading, 2021, chicken

Cockerel to the left, pullet to the right. Plymouth barred rocks on New Year’s Day. If you look at chickens from this breed together, you can sex them via their feathers. The pullets/hens have darker featheration than their brothers.

January 1:  Another year gone, another year wiser?

Unless a date is involved, items listed for my goals are not in any order.

Cooking Goals (for the Blog)

    • January – No theme.  Dates are largely tentative.
      • Artichokes, done simply.  (Recipe is completed)   (Tues Jan 5)
      • Leg of Lamb.  (Recipe is completed)  (Fri Jan 8)
      • Chirachi (Tues Jan 12)
      • Compare ground beef with Impossible and Beyond Beef ground “meats”  – both as burgers and as mini-loafs.  (Fri Jan 15)
      • Coffee liqueur – (Recipe made, but needs to be re-made for photos).  (Tues Jan 19)
      • (Fri Jan 23)
      • (Tues Jan 26)
      • (Fri Jan 29)
    • February – East Asian cuisine.
      • Vietnamese tapioca dumplings (…)
      • Japanese Takoyaki Octopus Balls
      • Filipino Tripe Stew
      • Something Asian and Vegan
    • March – No theme.
      • Maple Syrup Homesteading post.
    • April – Vegetarian and vegan.  (Other than the April 1st dish… You will see…)
      • Nut Free Granola.  Nut and dried up fruit-free, to be more specific.)
    • May – By this point, tie off the Greek dishes I really want to make:  Spanikopita, beef moussaka, and a couple others – hopefully in the earlier months.  Also, something Mexican for Cinco de Mayo.
    • June – Hopefully by then I will be able to do some restaurant reviews combined with a potential trip – see below.
    • The rest of the year… as it happens. Not planning further than that, just yet.  Other than making the Greek Almond and Chocolate Christmas Cookies, to post Dec 17th.  

Homesteading Goals, Maple Syrup

    • Get everything together and tap them trees in March.  (They are already marked.)
    • Possibly, simply for giggles, tap a large birch tree.  If only a taste, good enough this time.
    • Boil down everything, and make both maple syrup and a thinner maple drink.
    • Evaluate how it all went.

Homesteading Goals, Veggies and Fruits

    • iiai

Homesteading Goals, Feathered Critters

    • Chickens
      • Carry on with Main Coop.
      • Cull a rooster or two in Second Coop.  Go by behavior.  Encourage egg-laying.  Build “toys” for their run.
      • Set up tractor for eventual meat birds.
      • Electronetting, finally.
      • Order new day old chicks to arrive July – mostly broilers with supplemental barred rocks (this time the latter should be all female).  
        Note, they’re ordered to arrive week of July 26th.
      • September – October – harvest the broilers.
    • Quail:
      • January – order from – two batches of Jumbo Coturnix eggs, to arrive Jan or early Feb.  This is 50 eggs.  Set up incubator and have at it!   ORDERED.  
      • March – Quail go outdoors, or if too many to house out there, extras into freezer.  (FINALLY I will be able to eat one of my quail!)  Another possibility is to find neighbors who want quail of their own.
      • Cook up some meat quail.  
    • Other Poultry
      • Evaluate the potential of having either guinea fowl (tick control!) or turkeys (just two or three, for end of season dinner) here.  Hens are fine for the turkeys.  Both species will also lay eggs.  I will probably not establish them here in 2021.

Homesteading Goals, Other Critters

  • I am definitely getting and using a fishing license this year.  On the western end of this state, I seriously MISS fish or seafood of any kind!
  • Rabbits?  Dunno.  I’d like to raise them for food, but between 1) too much like white meat of chicken – but perhaps if semi-free-ranged they won’t be like that and 2) probably too many neighbors hating on me for wanting to eat those gentle fluffy things?  Dunno. (Personally, I rather eat squirrel.  I wish I had this blog in place back when I last had squirrel…!  – Um, I also feel that way about the overnight-braised bear roast we had back in the day…)
  • Sheep.  For some reason I prefer the smaller but wilder breeds of sheep, at least to have roaming around here.  I’d like Shetland, Icelandic, or to go WAY back evolutionarily, the Soay sheep.  Seriously winter-hardy.  These would primarily be for fiber, but cull out extras.  I am going to research housing and put in fencing in 2021.  I will not be able to bring any on this year, see Personal Goals below.
  • Goats.  Still researching, but for meat, I am leaning Kiko goats.  Will look into other goats, preferably not too large as I have some bad body parts.  I have absolutely NO interest in milking any animal here.
  • Alpaca.  This one is also a real possibility, for their fiber.  I could sell it to others, and perhaps learn to use it myself.
  • Main need for all this over 2021 is to find the best FENCINGS, get a small tractor (and a way to cover it when terribly inclement out), and plan out essential housing that allows room for growth.  2021 will be a year of research with some early infrastructure.

Personal Goals

  • The idiotic “benign tumor” in my knee is growing back.  I need to deal with this, get another MRI, and get it excised once the nasty and icy part of spring is over.  I looked last spring at the potential of hitting it with radiation (it hadn’t grown back a lot then) and that doctor and I concluded that since little was known about this type of tumor, it would not be practical with unknown benefits.  This is why I will have new quail come early – since I already have quail, the newbies can be outside with the others when the time comes – and new chickens will come late. I will have to have someone in town maintaining my poultry and my one remaining cat while I am out/not able to do things, and I want them NOT to have to slip down on snow or ice to get to the chickens, either.  I have also delayed due to  the coronavirus of note, since New Haven is a state away, and I really didn’t want to avoid having enjoyment here the balance of 2020 – and the growth only started to take back off this past month.  But this HAS to be done this spring.  I can still start seeds indoors for the garden.  I will be able to be weight bearing, but other factors mean I can’t slip AT ALL during the healing process outdoors.  On the plus side, it is not growing back at the juncture of the knee itself. So far less physical therapy will be involved than last time.
  • Serenity my cat.  (She got introduced to the world of the Internet back in 2002 as Miw, an Egyptian persona/avatar on a couple of creative and interactive websites.  She’s still on the site that is still available,)  She is 19 years old, and she beats Grumpy Cat out in spades (without looking or being grumpy), but I never knew I should have tried to monetize her!  Born 11/11/01 – she’s a Ragdoll.  She and my two American Curls got along well with each other, but the last had to be put to sleep last October.  Since she no longer has Obi-Wan, she sleeps with me at night.  She has early kidney failure problems, and a bit of hind end osteoporosis issues – but I WORK with her. I am hoping she can make it to age 20, and to that end I will do whatever I can – as long as she’s happy being alive.  (If it becomes miserable for her, I do know how to let go, despite the tears.)
  • There will always be cats in my life.  I cannot bring any new ones in here while Serenity lives – she’s mellow and will pretend to deal, but at age 19, that is rude to her beyond belief.  I am considering if/when that time come, adult cats, no specific breed.  From a shelter or some such.  While I LOVE both the ragdoll and American curl breeds, there are so many cats already out there waiting for love and a home.
  • A dog or more?  I am finicky about dogs, just like people. Some people are worthwhile and more than worthwhile. Same is true of dogs.  Never wanted one in my working days – yeah, there are puppy day care facilities, but eh..  II might be gone for 11 hours a day, including commute time.  And I might need to go somewhere afterwards.  For an emergency, yes, but otherwise?  I am retired, and considering a bundle of factors.  However, I am looking at guardian dogs (yes, that type would stay outdoors to watch the flocks), sheepherding breeds possibly, and maybe a couple other types.  Yes, with dog breeds, breed personality can get involved, but I have known some mixed that turned out wonderful.  Depends on what is needed when the time comes… 2022?   With other needs for 2021,  a dog is premature. Much more needy creatures than cats (or, for that matter, most poultry).
  • Getting the Solar connected.
  • Getting the Generator installed and connected.
  • Dealing with homeowners insurance and then getting a wood burning fireplace in and on line.
  • Finish all the exterior staining and preserving, and re-doing some of the sun-intensive parts on the house (some of this may need me to hire out – as I can’t do ladders these days).
  • Take a VACATION.  While I could go down to Florida to see family sometime in April, I think surgery will supersede this.  I think the probable vacation will be in June, with family, to Maine, to lay to rest Dad’s ashes with Mom’s.  That’s fine.  (I can find locals to take care of poultry and the cat – especially with the snow GONE.  I have NO intention of visiting Florida in the summer.  I am not a masochist.)
  • Short trip travels:  Vermont weekend in August, Hudson Valley weekend in October for Columbus Day weekend, NOFA summer conference in Amherst MA.  This all depends on what is cancelled due to COVID.  
  • Hosting the annual (except 2020) Maypole.  
  • Garage clean-out and organization.
  • Basement re-organization.

Personal Goals, Creative and Related

  • Return to stained glass.  Did some in the past.
  • Learn a language.  I started Duolingo for Welsh last year, but I do want to go beyond Tourist Lingo.  I want to read the literature.  Yes, the former is first in the way of learning, but I don’t see there is much available to learn that language deeper (should I actually have the time).  Portuguese would also be interesting. NOTE:  I don’t have a NEED to learn a language, I just figure it would be an interesting way to keep that part of my brain active.  I’d thought about Korean or such (as a foodie), but I do NOT want to learn that alphabet.  Sticking with language, not writing!
  • Painting:  Watercolor, acrylic, oils – as they occur to me.  Not planning on hitting them ALL.
  • Vastly improve my photography, and set up a studio in the basement for adding to that.  At least for the indoor portions.  Deal with the fact that Lightroom software is now inaccessible to people who don’t have good internet connections and get something as good or better than that.
  • Consider making videos.
  • I plan to read 60 books in 2021 – this will be tracked on Goodreads.  Cookbooks, how-to books, and reference books won’t count – since those tend to be skimmed or opened up for specific needs.  I read 60 this year, so I don’t think this will be a stretch.
  • Exercise a LOT more.  This is by being active around the property, and by walking/hiking.  If you homestead, you probably really do NOT need to join a gym or fitness center.  Fifty years ago, no one was doing that, and they were overall a lot more fit than people are now.
  • Improve my state of mind.  Meditation and other techniques.  Things to improve my sleep hours.  I’d love to get back into tai chi, but need to re-develop body flexibility.  Connect with people early and often.  (Even if just by picking up the phone, these days.)
  • Sleep.  I understand 7-9 hours a night is ideal.  I read somewhere that Benjamin Franklin ended up waking mid-night, got work done under an oil lamp, then went back to bed… to rise early and wise or whatever.  That’s possible, too.  I do wake in the early hours of the new day (um, restroom reasons…) but I do get back to sleep.  I want to experience better sleep patterns, even if I do get up for the nocturnal voyage to the john.  I need to improve on this.
  • Just damn well accept that some people think political viewpoints are more important than friendship, and just go ahead and get along with life.  DEAL with it.  I learn to refuse to fall into that shallow trap-hole.  Not my problem if they decide to do so. Friends are friends because they are FRIENDS, not because they have to agree with me on every count, or that I have to agree with them on any.  Cut the fake ones loose.  I admit I am having some vestigial problems with this.  But I have a history of a couple (2) earlier problems with fake friends.  At least this all happens for different reasons… (Mebbe I am learning something, but at a case at a time?)
  • Listen to MORE music.  I need (finally!) to get my iPOD converted over to the current i-World out there.  The stuff on that implement is my musical soul.
  • Find something volunteer to do.  I had planned to host the local monthly night Potlucks at the Community Center starting last March after the slippery ice went away, but… COVID closed everything down.  I would like to volunteer at a pet shelter.  Those are still necessary.
  • WRITE!  Oh, Please!  And not just for this blog!