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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Muscovy Ducks Legal Again

Fish and Wildlife had an idea one fine day. Make ownership of Muscovy ducks illegal. Starting tomorrow, they are once again legal to own. What on earth happened?

Yep, they're one ugly duck!
 Muscovy ducks compete effectively for resources, and tend to overwhelm other species. If they mate with any other breeds of ducks, the offspring are sterile, like mules. While they are not native to the US, they have migrated up from central America and South America, which technically puts them under the control of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Not so good for the ducks, or the farmers who raise them.

You'll see them in parks, by the water, but swimming is not necessary to their well being. Basically F&W targeted them for extermination, allowing people to shoot them on sight. Farmers who raised them needed to get rid of them.Thankfully no more problems with keeping them starting Thursday.

Why keep Muscovies? Economically they're a good meat producer, and less fatty than regular ducks. A drake Muscovy can weigh in at 14# or more. Once they reach maximum weight, they usually can't fly away. We trim wings anyway. Females weigh amazingly less, about seven pounds, but can set three clutches of eggs a year.
Babies are cute, though.

Females, however, can and do fly. In the wild, they nest in trees. They need to be confined for their own safety and that of their ducklings.

Muscovies don't require a pool, though they love them. The ducklings can actually drown if in water too long (no oils in their feathers). Your duck pen will be far less messy and aromatic without a pool. Just a deep bucket to let them clear their nostrils regularly is needed.

They are efficient foragers. One of our females saw us discover a nest of pinkie mice in an open shed. She sped up to the nest and gobbled down the entire litter, and looked for more. Bugs disappear, and small snakes, mice, and reptiles, too.

 They're interesting ( males hiss; females coo) and thrifty to keep. Muscovies are a dream to process, because they lack the heavy oils in other duck feathers. Plucking is so much faster and easier.

Lastly, they have the most personality of any duck breed. When I left early from work one of our girls would open a bleary eye at me, glare with raised crest, then subside back to sleep. I felt obligated to aplogise for my intrusion on the way to the car.

I understand the responsibility involved in keeping Muscovies from escaping. We've kept ours confined to protect them from predators, actually. 

I deplore those folks who get them as cute Easter babies, and let them go at the park when they discover Darling Duckling becomes large and sometimes agressive. Call a local farmer instead.

I was happy to participate in the online petition program to reinstate Muscovies as a legally kept bird. F&W was surprised how many folks keep them as meat birds. Have a place you can keep ducks? Get some Muscovies and celebrate the modification (repeal) of a regulation passed by folks with only part of their information lined up. Thanks to  F&W for listening to farmers and folks and recinding the section of the regulation that had kept an excellent meat producer off our tables.

Ugly to look at, personality plus, and tasty on the table; Muscovy ducks are another source of meat in troubled times.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

With a Little Help... (More Emergency Prep)

The Joe Cocker version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" is playing in my head as my song of the day. Why? Hangman and family visited last weekend and he brought my traditional birthday gift and more. What was it?

Bagged and brown, it's manure! 1000 pounds of gardening richness, in bags. That man knows what to buy a woman who gardens, all right! More and better homegrown produce to can!

 Not only that, but he brought the Ball Blue Book, two flats of canning jars, canning spices and mixes, and a set of canning tools! He says it's my birthday, Christmas,  and all the other gifts of the year, and probably next year, too. Thanks, Hangman! I've already used a flat of the jars to bring my total of Jarred Dinners to 80!

With the pressure canner ready to go, I really needed a new jar lifter. Mine is probably antique, it falls apart when I try to use it unless I bend it first. Imagine the accidents in a canning kitchen with an undependable lifter. I shiver as I imagine the sound of breaking jars.

From the Blue Book I've learned rabbit meat can be canned with bones in. I wasn't looking forward to boning all that rabbit meat first. There's some delicious recipes for stews, and main dishes to try, and veggie recipes too.

 I think I'd better re-organise my pantry soon. When I complete the Jarred Dinners one shelving unit will be full. I need another unit to hold the pressure canned items I'm planning, so it looks like a spell of carpentry looms on the horizon.
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Can't get to the dehydrator yet. It's behind the insulation pile in the Hut.
Seedlings fill the porch kitchen counters waiting for us to finish one of the back gardens. Weeding has taken three days, and we're making hay of some of the wild grass we're pulling up. Rabbits seem to like it.

Presto! It's a Canner! (Emergency Prep)

I found one! I found one! Why so excited? I didn't realize how much of a challenge finding a pressure canner would be. Finally tracked one down at Parker-Astin Hardware in Bryan, TX.

Remember the "oldtime" hardware stores? P-A has tools, fasteners, garden equipment, household goods, automotive and more. Visiting there is like a trip to my past: bins of hardware, not just the pre-boxed stuff. They have the weird stuff that I need, in stock, such as the spring scale we use to weigh the rabbits.

At any rate, they had one Presto pressure canner (holds 7 qts.) which they graciously held for me until I could get to town to collect it. "Presto" sits in its box on the porch, gleaming, waiting for the produce to come.

Visions of home processed stews and chili dance in my head. Lean ground beef and home grown rabbit to put up in shining jars as soon as these buns reach proper size. The home canned bacon recipe lurks in my collection, waiting for me to collect the supplies I need.

I'm cheered to view my shelves of "Dinners in Jars" ( 60 and still working on more) , but the pressure canned meals will be true luxury. Guess my next purchase will be the newest Ball Blue Book, the authority on putting up food. Safety first when canning low acid foods like veggies and meat is critical. Botulism is deadly.

The emergency preparedness program at HomePlace enters a new phase.

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Order from the Ready store arrived 3/14/11 -- back to making up "jarred" dinners.

Pear trees are blooming, dewberries greening up, seeds planted, seedlings transplanted, and weeding old overgrown gardens continues. Spring is here regardless of the calendar.  Thirty-five rabbit babies and counting. Four more does due at month's end. P

Venison (harvested here) for dinner 3/17, to share with Hangman, the Mrs. and son, who'll visit for the weekend. Gotta go junk out "the Hut", my office and guest house to make room. Can't have folks tripping over my excess of "stuff" trying to get to bed. I need to tame my office and craft stuff anyway.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Emergency Prep -- Finding Dried Foods

Taking a break from filling jars to hunt down more supplies. Somewhere in our mega storage units is a dehydrator. I need to find it ASAP!!!
Ruth's hint to try King Arthur Flour company for cheese powder was a good one -- Thanks!

Went on an interesting shopping trip this past week. Looking for plant seedlings I was surprised to note the diminished supplies of same. Wal-Mart had fewer in number total, fewer varieties, and some of my favorites from years past were missing. Talked to the clerk in the gardening area. She said, " This is what we have left from the order we got this morning. We don't know when we'll be getting more." I noticed the Jubilee watermelon plants were just the seed leaves that first emerge, no true leaves at all; I took several home to nurture until large enough to plant.

Lowe's plants were outside as usual, but several were stressed/scalded from the sun. Lots of tomato plants (no cherry tomatoes), but again the number of varieties were more limited than last year. Even fewer types of peppers, both sweet and hot. The cole crops looked a little "peak-ed" and gangly from lack of light. Strawberry plants were outrageous in price.

In both locations, six packs have downsized to four packs. If you plan on planting any commercial seedlings, go get them now. What I can't get as plants I'll start seeds for.Too bad the greenhouse burned two years ago. I really miss it. Lots of people are buying plants and starting gardens this year. Don't be disappointed!

Brazos Valley Natural Foods stocked the "Red" lentils I wanted. The green ones and brown ones readily available were ugly! If we're eating emergency supplies, they should look appetizing, yes? Dried vegetable flakes were on sale -- $1 off per bag. They also had celery flakes and green bell pepper flakes in bulk so I could try out a small amount. In a hurry at the time, I need to go back and see what else they have available to try.

The Ready Store order hasn't come yet (3-6-11). I know they said there was a delay, but I'm trying to work out a shepherd's pie jar dinner, and getting impatient. I may try ordering elsewhere. Art loves shepherd's pie!

Found complete Potato Buds at Sam's, along with bulk rice, macaroni, coffee creamer, dried mushrooms, and large containers of spices.

 Hangman sent me a link for a spice company he knows :  They sell spices at many Gander Mountain stores, HEB's and a variety of locations in Texas, as well as an online store. Since Hangman is a fine cook, I'd take his tip and try out some of these products.

Price Increase/ Shipping Delays :Talked to the Preparedness Plus store, and found that prices for dried foodstuffs will be going up later this week. They have a 3 week shipping delay similar to the Ready Store. Honeyville Farms claims no delays in general, but some items may be back ordered.

My order from Ready store shipped out Thursday, but haven't seen it yet (3-13-11).
Used up all the Jars Art saved. I'll ask friends to save some and get some real canning jars, too. Now I'm buying regular products based on the shape of the jar. Art is still chuckling about the jars he would save, and I would complain about.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Emergency Preparedness -- 2 Liter Bottles

As the 2 liter bottles from Diet Coke piled up around us, we recycled them, but came to the conclusion they could become part of our Emergency Plan. Here's a few uses:

Buns cooling off
 Fill rinsed 2 liter bottles with drinking water, leave some headspace, and freeze them. They keep the freezers here filled when space is open and help keep things frozen when the power goes out. Then we can use the generator less. Thaw a few when you're thirsty for a cold drink. Tuck a few into an ice chest to keep foods that need refrigeration cool. Use them to ice injuries or as a cold pack to treat folks who are sensitive to heat.

Build a water filter. Warning: You must still treat the water with bleach or purification tablets. Cut the bottom of the bottle off, lay some cheesecloth   inside over the neck, tuck in a layer of cotton fluff, a layer of sand, and a layer of gravel. Run muddy water through the filter to remove gross imputities, then treat cleared water with chemicals before drinking.

Cut the bottoms off some more 2 liters, rubber band some screen or loosely woven fabric over the neck, and place over tender seedlings as a mini-greenhouse when cold snaps threaten. Fill several with water and place them in a ring around tender plants and you've got something similar to the Wall o' Water at zero dollars.

In a pinch, the bottles can be used for dry storage of rice, lentils, beans,etc. Not as good as glass, but usable. Use a bottle cut in half and use as a large funnel, too!

What uses have you found for 2 liter bottles?
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One day old palimino pinkie rabbits
 Rabbit Maternity Report:

Silver (grey Lop) - 7 born March 1 (1st litter)
Brown-Eyed Susan (Palomino) 9 born March 1 (2nd litter, 1st to survive)
Bonnie (Black) - 7  Feb. 28 ( dependable momma)
Specs (Broken coat pattern) nothing...Think this round is a "dud"
Joyce - (grade Californian) due March 12

Weaned the first three litters of this year (Born end of January) last week. Looks like we'll need more cages soon...Art??? Cut some wire? My hands get tired way too quickly, so I assemble cages after Art cuts the panels. The herd is over 50 again, and three more does are ready to re-breed.