I didn't get a lot done today. We made it through the first day of school for #1 and #2. I didn't harvest anything from either garden today. I rewarded #3 with a bottle of root beer to feed and water the rabbits for me. I'm hoping to get more done tomorrow.
Yesterday our raised bed garden provided two delicata squash, two acorn squash, and a small handful of beans and tiny carrots.
Yesterday I picked some tomatoes, and in bumping the bumblebee tomato plant, lost the biggest one... It's the purple/green one to the top/left. I'm hoping it will ripen in a paper bag.
Today little #5 helped me pick tomatoes. We found one ripe Silvery Fir Tree tomato, four ripe Blondkopfchen, and he picked one green tomato too. We will add it to the bumblebee tomato and see what we get. We used the big red Silvery Fir tomato diced up with our burritos for dinner. I'm still not a fan. The skin is too thick and I don't care for the flavor. We will not be growing them next year.
Mocha and the two remaining kittens seem to be doing alright. Mocha doesn't spend a lot of time with them at this point. Floki is being an amazing babysitter (as big sisters tend to be) and stays with them almost all the time now. Trinket and (Nether)Quartz are looking thin, but are otherwise active. I'm hoping to introduce them to soft food later this week.
A couple of days ago while walking the metal detector around my parents' yard, I came across some tiny fruits that made me think of plums. I did some research and identified the tree as a wild plum tree. How very neat! It turns out the fruit is edible, though pretty bitter. It definitely dried out my mouth. I ate one, and then harvested the rest to dehydrate with the apple slices. How unique, we can offer wild plum treats! I've never heard of that before. Unfortunately, there aren't many. I think the deer like them too, and being on the very edge of the yard, the deer have easy access.
I'm still working on raising funds for the pet store. I'm excited to get started, and I have so many amazing ideas! I just need the initial finances to get stocked and open the doors.
My little brother started his big move yesterday. He's heading out to the West Coast. He said he'll come back for Christmas. This will be the longest time I've been away from my brother. I wish him well on his move, and I hope he enjoys whatever adventures he finds out that way. I miss him already. I can hardly wait for Christmas. I'm no good with goodbyes and I hate change.
Speaking of change, school starts tomorrow for #1 and #2. The younger girls (#3 and #4) start their school next week.
I still have all ten of the harlequin cross bunnies. They're getting big and they are quickly eating up a lot more food than anticipated. I thought most of them would be sold by now. I'm not sure why they aren't selling. I've had much plainer bunnies sell for the same price in the past. Unfortunately, they are nearing adult size, which means if they don't sell soon, they'll be headed for the stew pot.
The apples are falling from the trees at my parents' house, so we've started to dehydrate them. I'm starting with those that are bruised, or nicked a branch on the way down and had cut through the skin - basically the ones that won't be able to sit and wait for later. If all goes well and we can get the funding to open the store, the plan is to put them into 25-cent vending machines for people to buy and feed to the small animals. What a great way to promote feeding healthy snacks to your pets!
And of course now that the dehydrator is going, and pushing warm air out the top - Mabel has decided that it is also her new favorite place to hang out. I caught her napping there this afternoon, but she stood up when I pulled my camera out.
We celebrated a birthday recently, and the birthday child requested a watermelon cake. You cut a watermelon into cake sized rounds, cut off the rind, cut it into cake slices, and then cover it with frosting (heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar) and decorate with fresh fruit. This time we had strawberries up the sides, a raspberry on each slice, and the top was sprinkled with chopped dried mangoes.
Since Mocha's trip to the vet, the kittens have been doing well. They seek out human attention, and love to cuddle and play. (Nether)Quartz loves to explore his ever expanding territory, and little Trinket will wander off to find someone to pet her. Today I caught Trinket using the litter box for the very first time. Yay!!
With my brother leaving soon, we finally made it to the landscape place to pick out a couple rocks to mark Mowgli and Bentley's graves. This one is Mowgli's and it's gorgeous. The black portions are recessed in and the red portions are textured out. The photos show the sides of it (beautiful from any angle).
Bentley's marker is red and black quartz. It looks like the pattern you see in so many granite counter tops, but it's not polished.
Tonight I also picked some tomatoes. I got three Lemon Drop and four Blondkopfchen. The Lemon Drop ones are slightly larger and a paler yellow. We ate the first Silvery Fir Tree tomato and I was not impressed at all. We will be saving seeds from all varieties in the spirit of trading, but we likely won't be planting the varieties we don't care for next year (bring on something new!).
I've been working on getting my designs updated on RedBubble. Some of my older designs were only available as greeting cards or stickers or shirts due to size requirements when they were uploaded. RedBubble has since updated their programming to allow one design to be edited to fit multiple products. It's still a work in progress, but I'm working from my oldest designs forward. Please feel free to check out our RedBubble Shop!!
Alright, I did it. I made the big announcement on my Facebook page that I am looking for funding to get the pet store open and running. I have all of the paperwork, it's just a matter of picking a location and getting stuff on the shelves now. Making this announcement is pretty big for me. I don't know how all of my friends and family will take this. I hope they're supportive. I'm really afraid of a backlash for asking for money to start, but I know there are plenty of businesses that start off crowdfunding websites, so here goes to another new adventure.
Beyond Pets also has a Facebook page here. Please feel free to like and share! Tweet about it, Pinterest it and help me to get the word out. There are some really neat rewards for donations of set amounts, but quantities are limited.
We took Mocha to the vet yesterday, though she was looking much better. She had her stitches removed and was given a shot of antibiotics. The vet thinks it was mastitis that caused the infection and that infection in the milk made the kittens sick. He assured me all should be well now. I'm still going to be keeping an eye on the kittens though.
Checking the garden, I decided it was time to pick the first Silvery Fir Tree tomato as it was starting to crack. I haven't cut into it yet, but it looks nice; slightly squishy, but overall uniform in color.
Yesterday I picked the first ripe tomatoes, a blondkopfchen and a solanum spontaneum. I didn't post photos because instead I posted about Face passing away.
Last night I checked on kittens before I came to bed and noticed Nose in a strange position. She died in my hands minutes later. Same symptoms as Face, no body heat, pale gums and paw pads, and I had noticed she wasn't eating yesterday after Face died. We started syringe feeding warm goat milk but she had refused the last few feedings.
I told the kids to make sure Mocha was feeding the two remaining kittens and one of them said something about Mocha's "bigger nipple." I rolled her over and sure enough, one back teat was full, warm, and pink. I immediately thought mastitis, but as soon as I started to physically handle her belly, I knew I was wrong. We have not made it back to the vet to have Mocha's staples removed. In the past when we had surgical recoveries we have always dealt with stitches, which I can remove myself. It's never been a big deal to leave them in a little longer until I'm satisfied the wound is healed enough. Apparently the same does not apply to staples. Mocha has a very bad infection, which is evident when the last staple is bumped and pus is visible. I now suspect that this infection caused her milk to go bad in that nipple, and having that infection made the kittens sick (leading to them not eating which caused hypoglycemia). I noticed the two remaining kittens only nurse from the front nipples which is unusual as they produce less milk. I will be calling the vet right away in the morning to get them all in and get Mocha back on the mend. I am hoping they can drain the infection via needle and give antibiotics, but I'm afraid this may be bad enough to require having her put under and surgically placing a drainage tube. I don't know how antibiotics will effect her ability to nurse. Since Nose died we have been offering warm goat milk via syringe to both remaining kittens to assure they are not going hungry.
After losing Face and Nose, we decided the remaining kittens needed better names. Tiny is now Trinket, and if she survives we will be keeping her. Ears is now Quartz (or NetherQuartz as the kids call him - a reference to MineCraft).
Today I got a handful of beans, plenty of carrots, and an acorn squash. It looks like the lower temperatures have started to kill off a lot of the raised bed, leaving big open patches in the middle as the tendrils continue to grow over the sidewalk and take over the rest of the lawn.
I also picked three more blondkopfchen tomatoes that were ripe and stopped to compare them to the Lemon Drop that wasn't quite ready to pick yet.
I hate making posts like this. We were gone most of today, and late this evening when we finally made it home, we found little Poppy (aka "Face") in the middle of the floor. She was cold and barely moving. I have no idea how long she was off the couch and away from Mocha and the other kittens. Obviously too long. I immediately gave her honey and handed her off to #3 while I prepared a syringe of warm goat milk. I fed her one syringe full, then gave her a warm bath and used the blow dryer (on low) to dry her and warm her at the same time. We attempted more syringed goats milk but kitten refused. So I gave her back to #3 and told her to snuggle her close, and keep her warm and comfortable. About 15 minutes later little Face/Poppy passed away in my daughters arms. We are devastated. She marks the sixth kitten, and ninth pet this year we've lost. I'm feeling disheartened and discouraged.
I'm making progress, slowly, on the business venture. I made a fresh GoFundMe page complete with several reward levels with (what I consider) some pretty cool prizes. Check it out below!
As promised previously, some photos of the overgrown tomato patch.
Some of the plants are tipping over now under the weight of their growing fruit! One of the original Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes is turning orange, so hopefully we will taste our first tomato soon. In related news the solanum spontaneum at my parents' house got eaten by a deer. :(
I've had two harvests this week. The first was a few radishes, some beans and peas, and some radish pods. I've never had radish pods, but numerous places on the internet indicated they were edible - so we tried them in a stir fry. We won't be adding fresh garden beans or radish pods next time. Yuck! I might try pickling radish pods in the future, but for now I think I will leave the radish pods to form seeds for next spring.
After initially avoiding the nest box, and then "test thwapping" some kittens, Floki has made friends with them. She now spends a majority of her time laying and playing with the kittens. They are absolutely adorable together.
Our neighbor lady graciously asked us out to lunch this week. Feeding our family can cost a small fortune - in this case $50 at Pizza Ranch with one kid who stayed home. As a thank you for her generosity, we gave her everything we harvested from the garden the next day. We had a bouquet of flowers, our first and largest acorn squash (2 pounds, 8 ounces), a couple radishes, three tiny carrots, a small handful of beans and peas, and a sprig of fresh mint.
I posted Mocha and the kittens for sale on one of the Facebook groups I'm in. While there isn't a lot of interest in Mocha (go figure, there are cute kittens), one kitten is pending a deposit, and another kitten seems to have two potentially interested parties (though no commitments at this point).
"Face" caught someone's heart. She is pending a deposit and will henceforth be named "Poppy."
The plan is to keep "Tiny" (name to be changed) to replace Mocha. The idea was to find a stud for Floki in the future, but maybe just buying a second male would work just as well? I know better than to have dueling unaltered males in the same house, so if we were to get the business up and running, perhaps we could keep a new male there, kind of like a mascot or something, so he could get lots of attention but live in a completely separate location than Henry. I guess we will wait and see what happens with the business venture before getting too set on what we are doing with the cats.
I pulled up the very first carrot of the year. I'll let the rest continue to grow but I was curious to see how they were doing. This one is 4-1/4 inches long and weighs .27 ounce. As far as flavor, it's almost citrusy, and very strong flavored. I'm not used to home grown carrots! The commercial carrots from the grocery store are almost flavorless.
The kittens can now all escape their nest box. They're good snugglers and are getting lots of attention!
Lots of photos in this post! The tomatoes are looking fantastic. Some of them are actually tipping the stakes right over, and they're starting to sprawl out. I no longer have neat little walking paths between the plants - they're now pretty much one solid block of plant. I'll have to get an updated photo fo the tomato patch tomorrow. Here are a few notable tomatoes. Nicholaevna Pink is one of the largest at this point. This surprises me because I thought for sure Large Barred Boar, or Great White would be bigger.
Another notable variety is Blondkopfchen ("Goldilocks"). In researching this variety I don't recall any posts saying "bring a bucket" or "more tomatoes per plant than any other" - but it is definitely on that list. This is just one "bunch" of tomatoes. The plant has another "bunch" that are smaller, and at least three or four more "bunches" of flowers yet. Yikes! I hope they taste good!
On Tuesday I decided to put together a crockpot dinner. We went to the store and bought a chunk of beef, an onion, a few new red and baby yukon potatoes, celery, carrots, and a zucchini. I added in parsley, kale, collards, beans, and a few mint leaves. We ate the peas fresh.
I put everything in the crock pot with some rosemary and beef broth (or stock?), only to find out that our crock pot no longer works. So I called my Mom up and we ended up hauling it over to her house. I only spilled once during the trip, so that's always a plus. By the time we got everything switched to her crock pot and cooking it was 3:30. So we figured we'd have a late dinner. Set the crockpot for 4 hours on high. Four hours later the potatoes and carrots were still raw, so we set it back to 4 hours on high. By 10pm we decided to order pizza instead. When we left that evening, my Mom set it to 10 hours on low. The next morning, the potatoes were still hard!! So she turned it on 10 hours of low again. We ate it (finally) after it had been cooking for 26-1/2 hours. The potatoes and carrots and beef were great, but the zucchini and greens were pretty much liquefied at that point. On the plus side, between our family of seven, my parents, and my brother - there was only two potatoes left at the bottom of the pot after dinner.... and nobody complained about it. It must not have been too bad. It was a nice sneaky way to get greens into their diet (not that that is a problem for my kids).
The kittens are ever adorable. They've discovered how to escape the box, and we frequently find the same one on the couch, crying because it can't figure out how to get back into the box. The kids have all picked favorites. They're all very cute, and each one definitely has its own unique markings.
Last night we narrowly missed getting hit by a storm that was producing 60-mile-an-hour winds and golf ball sized hail. It split as it came to Brainerd (as many weather patterns do - "the Brainerd Bubble" we like to call it). I snapped a photo of some of the cool clouds that came in just ahead of the storm, then made sure the bunnies were all tucked in safely with food and water under tarps to keep them safe (they all have roofs to prevent hail injuries, the tarps are just to keep the wind and rain from whipping in).
Which brings me to the bunnies. As always, I re-checked genders now that they're 8-weeks old. I got a few wrong initially. It looks like we have three does, five bucks, and two that I'm not certain about but I believe they may actually be bucks. They're now separated by gender. The three confirmed does in one cage, and the 7 others in their own big cage. They're lots of fun. They crowd around the door every time we come to feed and water them, and they nose bump my hand if I stick my fingers in, then run in circles around the cage and get back in line to do it again. I've been giving them big handfuls of grass and dandelions now that they're away from their mom and they love it! Less competition with fewer bunnies in each cage. They're still all available for sale.
My apologies for neglecting the blog this week. I've been hard at work looking through distributors, manufacturers, brands, and so forth to come up with a detailed list of everything I need to buy in order to open this new business we're planning. I'm nowhere near done, but I am making headway!. Once we figure out the cost to inventory, we can come up with a more accurate number to approach the bank with, and start fundraising efforts to get enough to pay our 1/3 that the bank will require for a business loan.
The raised bed garden has turned into a small-town celebrity almost. Tony tells me he's seen multiple people actually stop their cars to take photos of our garden! I admit, I've never seen anyone actually stop, but I have seen several people slow down and look. I guess having no prior hands-on gardening experience, I am unaware of just how fantastically these plants are growing. I have had to pick some of the squash and pumpkins out as they start to rot, but over-all, it's still looking fantastic! Roland loves to chew on the ones that start to go bad if they aren't too far gone when I find them. He also likes to chew on the green apples that fell out of the tree during that big storm we had a while ago out at my parents' house. They're way too hard and sour to eat, but he seems to think of them as edible mini tennis balls.
I've got delicata squash growing on both sides of the garden (from one plant located somewhere near the center of that mess). I've been watching the largest and wondering how to tell when it's ripe. One online source suggested to leave them on the plant until the plant dies, or until frost is eminent. Another suggested it was ripe when the vine starts to die away where the fruit meets the vine. Another said simply to compare it to the photo on the package. Well, it looks like the package, and the flesh is starting to turn yellow, but the plant is still quite vigorous. But today, I went to look at the bottom side to make sure it wasn't rotting, and the whole squash came right off in my hand! I guess it's ripe enough to pick now. The bottom is still white - no green stripes, but the flesh resists a thumb-nail as most squash webpages suggest. I'm going to set it aside for a while to see if that white spot colors up. I'm told delicata squash doesn't need to cure, but it won't hurt it either. And if I mess it up, there are at least a few more still on the vine.
I picked a second Fordhook zucchini (1-pound, 7 ounces) on 8/5/15. One end was starting to go squishy, so I decided it was a use-it-or-lose-it kind of deal. We cut off the soft end and fed it to the rabbits. We used my sister's mother-in-law's recipe to make zucchini bread with the good portion. We added chocolate chips and it was super moist, but still felt like it was lacking something. Zucchini is so flavorless. I think next time I'll add nuts instead (as the recipe suggested), and maybe something else.
The winter sown tomatoes are looking wonderful! In fact, out of all of the plants, only two of them have not started flowering yet. Most have fruit growing, and some of them are starting to get stripes (though they're all still green at this point). The Solanum Spontaneum I planted out at my Mom's house is small, but doing alright. Last time we visited a few days ago it had one that looked almost ready to pick. I'm hoping it hasn't gone too long on the vine by the time we head back out there tomorrow. I'm definitely going to winter sow again this year, especially my tomatoes and my squashes!
Mocha's kittens are absolutely adorable. While they all started out white, they're each getting color now. Two are obviously long haired, both with darker fur with white markings. The one above is adorable with a perfect white nose/lip patch and white feet. The other long hair looks similar but has the white patch off to one side. The two lighter kittens appear to be short hair. One has spots over both ears and is developing a spot over one eye. The runt remained solid white longer than the other kittens but is now also developing an eye patch and a dark tail. It looks like the one with ear patches is a male, and the other three are females, but I will check later to confirm this. I assume all four will have beautiful bright blue eyes just like both of their parents. These kittens carry the genetics for Sphynx and/or Cornish Rex, but I plan to have them all spayed/neutered before they leave.
All kittens have eyes open today. It won't be long now until they're scampering all over the house!
We are making progress on the business venture. I'm currently working on an all inclusive inventory list of everything I want on the shelves on opening day, so we can go to the distributors with a very specific list. Tony and I also looked into some display features that we will also need and wow, it's expensive!!
Yesterday we lost another family pet. My brother's elderly Newfoundland mix, Mowgli, passed away of old age. He was 12-1/2 years old. I'm glad he didn't suffer, and we weren't left making a difficult choice. He died in one of his favorite places, sunning himself outside. He died happy and well loved. We laid him to rest beside Nadia.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.