Homesteading & Agrarianism

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This was written last Friday.

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The wood stove hums away with pots of water heating on top and the youngest children are engaged in a lively game of chase. Stewart has gone to pick up hay and I will split my day between bringing in firewood, answering questions about diagramming sentences, snuggling little Joshie, and cleaning… probably in that order.

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We will mix up sourdough bread this morning and big pots of soup later as we make it through the few days of Texas winter that seem to come and go. As for the happenings…

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This guy is now a fixture in the goat pasture. Which means, Lord willing, Abby, Daisy, and Kitty may be mamas next summer.

And we are still harvesting bits and bobs from the garden. Stewart covered the lettuce last night and I need to check on the cabbages. The green onions, kale,and cilantro have been blessed additions to our meals. I was thinking the other day that this is the first year we’ve had something, even if small, fresh to harvest from the garden from spring until now. Thank the Lord!

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It’s hard to believe, but right now this cabin – the one we inhabited for three years, the one in which both our daughters were born – is coming down. Lord willing the camper will also be coming out, making room for animal shelter. I suppose I may share more about that coming up but for now it is at once exciting and melancholic.

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And oh, this boy… he turned one and decided, without once asking my permission, that standing up was the next logical step. He likes to eat a homegrown egg most mornings and washes it back with fresh goat milk… and potatoes, this boy loves his potatoes.

Maybe it’s the fifth baby, or maybe I’ve done exactly the same thing the four times prior, but I’m thinking if he could just hold off on growing up that would be alright.

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But it’s not looking likely that he’ll be listening to me on that subject… and that’s probably for the best.

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As is often the case, the lunch discussion yesterday revolved around troubleshooting homestead issues. The day’s topic was egg production, spurred on in part by my reading of Little House in the Ozarks. But also because oddly low egg-production has been an on-going issue around these parts.

So we kicked around some ideas for what to change, what needs fixing up, and so on. By the time we had finished all of the salad, broth-boiled rice, and leftover meat and potatoes, we got to what is often the end of such conversations – a list of things we’d do when we had the time and money for it.

Stewart and I often joke about how futile such conversations can be. Not that the brainstorming and idea batting isn’t helpful, but if it is not peppered heavily with Lord willing it simply becomes a don’t-worry,-we’ll-figure-it-out conversation.

And that never ends well.

We parted ways, Stewart back to his work on propagating boysenberries, me back to organizing and labeling my recent canning endeavors. Generally after lunch I give the boys a short list of chores to do before school and so off they went as well.

Moments later Abram shot through the screen door beaming from ear to ear. I turned around from the kitchen sink in time to hear “Egg nest! Ma, I found an egg nest!“. The boys and I have been hunting for some such thing for weeks now, knowing that something wasn’t lining up with the numbers.

And so there it was, in an old tote filled with baby things once worn by the egg nest-finder himself – the Lord’s answer to our attempts at figuring it out. We had scrambled eggs this morning after fourteen of the nineteen eggs tested fresh using what I call the “Water-Test Method”.

The process is simple.

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Water-Testing Eggs for Freshness

  1. Fill a pint-sized vessel 75% of the way with clean water.
  2. Carefully submerge egg in water.
  3. Observe for any vertical movement of the egg. You want the egg to lay on its side as in the photo above. A small variation of horizontal is fine but any large movement puts the egg into questionable territory. Some say the reason for this the air pocket in the egg, some say otherwise. Frankly, I don’t know for sure what the reasoning is but it seems to work as I’ve never cracked a rotten egg I’ve properly tested.
  4. Straight up and down, as in the photo below, is not good. Chuck that thing as far away from the house as it can get. Anything nearing a 45 degree angle is also out, in my book.

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I only test the eggs just before cooking, as the washing process removes the protective coat that allows us to keep our eggs on the counter without refrigeration. Once you have culled the bad eggs, crack the fresh ones into a cast-iron skillet with a bit of lard and continue on with breakfast.

Sourdough toast, hot coffee with goat milk, and milk kefir are all good accompaniments to unexpected egg blessings.