Saturday, July 19, 2008

Time for a Change!

I've been thinking of changing the platform and URL for this blog for a long time. I figured the one year anniversary of the blog was a good time to switch, so started working on it the first of this month.

I hoped to have it all fancied up and perfect before announcing it, but I’ve got too much going on and it’s taking too long. I’m going to start posting to the new blog address from now on… just leave off the /blog in the address to and you’re there!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Newly Hatched Peachick

We had another peachick hatch over the weekend. Here it is fresh out of the shell...

Newly hatched peachicks stumble around in the incubators looking a lot like T-Rexes or some other dinosaur with a long neck.

I do wish another would hatch SOON though. The incessant peeping is driving me right round the bend. Yeah, yeah, I know I didn't have far to go, but this little guy has LUNG POWER!

Makes it hard to get to sleep at night when he's in full chorus all night long!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The End of the CSA Saga

Okay Faithful Readers, I finally did it! I sat down and took the time this morning to compose an email about the baskets we've been getting from the CSA to send to the people running it.

Following is most of the email – I’m not going to repeat all the comments that were included in it that were posted to this blog, except to say to be fair, I put in all the positive comments too. Oh, and here also, I did NOT include anyone's name.

“I signed up for the CSA baskets because I wanted some excellent fresh produce, and as an experiment to be able to talk from direct experience about CSAs on both my farm & country blog and my health food blog. I was hoping to be able to brag about CSAs and really push them as a way of helping your local farmer and getting great produce.

I posted pictures of some of the baskets I received from ***** Farms on one of my blogs, and gave brief descriptions of what the contents were (types of greens, etc.). I thought you might be interested to read some of the comments from other people, a lot of them also being farmers and/or familiar with CSA. I didn't put up pictures of all the baskets, especially the first couple. With late delivery, most of the time the greens had turned to slime from being in the bags too long and were inedible. I waited, hoping for better things.

I did, however, take pictures and post them of the 3rd basket. Here are some of the comments... each * asterisk below represents a comment from a different person, so as you can see, there are several people's opinions represented here:

* comment
* comment.

From me - Perhaps you aren't aware, but the pods of snow peas are supposed to be "flat and thin with the bulge of the tiny seed barely visible at prime eating stage." The ones in the basket looked like shelling peas. Once they are that big, they are no longer tender.

I put up pictures again by the 6th basket, along with mentioning
"We get an email each week from these people doing the CSA and they are always sooooooo enthusiastic about what’s in the basket."
and here a couple of the comments on it:

* comment
* Enthusiasm does not make up for poor quality merchandise. If you're unhappy, you can BET they have many other unhappy customers, too.

And I put up pictures again of last week's basket, the 8th, and here are some of the comments on it:

* From someone else who does a sort of CSA
* comment
* comment
* comment
* comment
* I am a consumer as well and am in my own CSA again this year. We had a pretty similar experience the first time we had a CSA. We purchased thru a farm that we didn't really get any references from and it ended up being not so good. We had to eventually talk to the farmer and let her know how disappointed we were in the share. We felt like, even tho we understood that when engaging in a CSA you take the good and the bad that this was mostly bad. Other farmers in the area were delivering much better items, so we were quite confused as to the problem. We let her know our feelings and that we really didn't have many good things about the share to pass along to other people. It was hard to do, but we felt we needed to.

The last comment hits the nail on the head... it is very hard to have to give negative feedback. I wanted to be able to give rave reviews about your CSA and recommend it to other people, and later buy half a beef. As it stands, I did not mention the **** farm name on my blogs so you wouldn't be associated with so much negative feedback from people commenting.

I have included all the positive comments I got as well... the main problem is most of the produce is picked too late. (e.g. Yellow squash is best when small - "Because summer squash develop very rapidly after pollination, they are often picked when they are too large and overmature. They should be harvested when small and tender for best quality." Once they're big, the skin gets tough and there are unappetizing large seeds.)

Myself and 3 other local people compared produce at two different Farmer's Markets and the organic produce in Publix, and the produce there was not only smaller, more tender, fresher... all around better looking than most in the CSA baskets, but if the same items were put together in a basket, they would have been cheaper as well. (Taking the cost of the CSA basket and dividing it by number of weeks it would be delivered)

I cannot afford to continue with this, as too much of my basket's contents end up feeding the peafowl or dogs here. For instance, though the meat is high quality, the sausage was so hot we couldn't eat more than a few bites, and my husband enjoys eating hot food like jalapenos. It's a shame to have to waste so much stuff.

We wish to discontinue our membership in this CSA. Please do not send any more baskets for us. I simply cannot afford to continue throwing away so much money. I included the comments in this letter so you would understand *why* we wished to discontinue, and try to do it in as non-confrontational a way as possible, while letting you know the problems.

And that's the end of my letter. It didn't take long to receive a reply, and that one has me shaking my head. It was very polite, and among other things, the owner said, "I am sorry that you have dissatisfaction with your basket. Fortunately my other customers do not share this dissatisfaction, nor do the restaurants."

Was I really the only person to ever complain? And was I so far off the mark, and the produce really WAS good?? I mean, that not only other people think it's great, but so do restaurants?

No, I know there is better stuff at the Farmer's Markets around here, and even at Publix So why is everyone else so impressed? What am I missing here? How could a high class restaurant be happy with less than excellent produce? (Okay, they didn't say *what kind* of restaurant.)

She also said, "I do wish you would have told me much sooner let me know how unhappy or confused you were with the varieties of vegetables/herbs."

Okay, she's right and and a bunch of you can say, "I told you so." I wrote back and apologized for not contacting her sooner, but also added I kept waiting for improvements after the late deliveries of the first few weeks, then figuring the garden would be really gearing up and good stuff forthcoming.

But I wasn't confused about the varieties of vegetables and herbs. Their emails said what was in the basket, so if they said snow peas for instance, I expected the peas in there to be just that, even though they looked like shelling peas.

I still think CSAs are a very good thing. And evidently a lot of people disagree with me and think even this particular CSA is a good thing. But I think produce from one should look more like the veggies Frugal Mom got from her CSA.

There are good CSAs out there. It's a fantastic concept, and should be a positive thing for both the farmer and consumer.

We just didn't pick the right one for us I guess.


Friday, July 4, 2008


Not only is this July 4th Independence Day...

1776 The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

But also on this day in ...

1802 The U.S. Military Academy opened at West Point, N.Y.

1804 Author Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Mass.

1845 American writer Henry David Thoreau began a two-year experiment in simple living at Walden Pond near Concord, Mass.

1939 Baseball player Lou Gehrig, afflicted with a fatal illness, bid a tearful farewell at Yankee Stadium in New York, telling fans, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."

1959 A 49th star was added to the American flag to represent the new state of Alaska.

1960 The number of stars on the American flag was increased to 50 to honor the new state of Hawaii.

2004 A 20-ton slab of granite, inscribed to honor "the enduring spirit of freedom," was laid at the World Trade Center site as the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower.

2007 The birth of our little blog, Rural Ramblings!

Hope you enjoy our missives and come back and visit often!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fowl Rescue

Why is that things seem to go wrong the most when you’re short on time? I’ve got more company than I expected coming this weekend, the house is a wreck, and I needed to get some groceries. But I haven’t been sleeping well, so after the guys went off to work this morning, I laid down for a quick nap figuring I’d be more energetic after a little rest.

I was dreaming about catching chicks, and that there were all kinds all over the house. Little did I realize when I woke up almost two hours later that was a prophetic dream. Two hours! Oh man! I didn’t have that kind of time to waste today! But okay, I feel better, so time to get moving, and fast.

My one little injured chick was peeping. I figured she was lonely. I kept wishing for something else to hatch out soon so she’d have a buddy. I held her a while and talked to her, then zipped outside to do the morning chores.

The wound is healing, even though it still looks pretty yuck.

The animals were all giving me the hairy eyeball, like, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” I was mobbed by chickens and guineas looking for some scratch grain, peafowl screeching for their morning chow, and indignant goats butting my legs because they hadn’t got their morning treat of animal crackers yet. Okay, okay! I’m moving as fast as I can.

Then I heard it.

If you’ve ever had guineas with keets, you know this sound. It’s that high-pitched locater cheep that means, “Help me, I’m lost!” One little keet was running around in the back yard screaming at the top of its little lungs. At first I figured it got separated from the group we saw last night, and when the guineas all came in for food, it’d find its mama. No such luck.

Instead, the older guineas were pecking at it, so I figured I’d better go to the rescue. I got out my trusty net, waded through the other critters, and went after it.

Now if you’ve ever chased a guinea keet you’re probably already laughing, because you know those short little legs move like they’re jet-propelled. It’s really too bad no one had a camera, cause I’m sure this would have qualified for a winner on “Funniest Home Videos.”

After much running around in the 90 degree heat, I finally captured the little twerp, took it inside, and put it in the brooder box with the injured chick. Finally! Now back out to finish my chores.

I wasn’t out there for very long until I heard that sound again. Uh-oh, there’s another keet somewhere! I grabbed my trusty net again, and went off to hunt it down. This one was in the weeds along the driveway. Those weeds include poison ivy.

We went around in circles, I slipped on some rocks and skinned my leg up a little, and about that time I was thinking, “I sure hope you appreciate me saving your life little keet, cause if I get poison ivy for the first time in MY life, I ain’t gonna be happy.” After a whole lot of tries, I finally netted the little speedball, put it in a bucket in the feed room and figured I’d finish my chores, then take it inside.

Only once it shut-up, I heard that sound again. HOW MANY OF THESE KEETS ARE RUNNING LOOSE!?! I’m sure about that time I heard God laughing and saying, “You’d think by now you’d be careful what you wish for! Now you’ve got some little cheeps to keep your lonesome chick company.”

The trouble is, this one was down in the bottom pasture. Now keets are nigh impossible to see in grass, let alone tall weeds like’s in that pasture. The only way you can find one is to home in on the cheeps, and then you still have to extremely lucky to locate it.

I went to look at a known nest site there, and discovered a mass of adult guinea feathers. Hmmmm, so that’s probably why these are running loose on their own – someone had mama for a midnight snack. But where is this little cheeper?

Feathers to the left, two nests of eggs to the right.

I waded through a whole lot of weeds, and probably still wouldn’t have found it except for one thing. This one doesn’t blend in. It’s a light gray. I’ve never seen a keet this color. We had some white guineas way back when we first got some, but I don’t remember them hatching out any gray keets. What I do remember is white guineas are the first to go when the predators come looking for food. They stand out, unlike the regular colored ones, so get picked off quickly.

At any rate, I captured that chick, and thankfully didn’t hear any more cheeps, so took them inside. Unfortunately, I just thought I was done chasing keets, cause when I got in the house I heard the sound again, and it wasn’t coming from the brooder box.

Oh no! The first little cheep had jumped out of the box and was running around all over the house. I headed towards the sound and stepped in something squishy. “Oh crap!” Yep, that’s what it was alright. Guess the little fink’s digestive system is working fine.

It ran in the office, where there are far too many places for it to hide. I crawled around on my hands and knees trying to find it. It ran out of there and into another room and under the bed.

Hiding out among some stuff on a shelf in the office.

By this time my legs were really itching and I knew I couldn’t reach the keet, so I figured I’d take a shower and get ready to go to the grocery store and maybe by then it would be out again. About the time I started to step in the shower, I heard cheeping in the hallway.

I headed after the little cheep, and it zipped towards the living room. I was praying, “Please Lord, I don’t care if you laugh, but don’t let anyone come to the door and see me running around the house with no clothes on, trying to catch this little beast. I haven’t got time to explain it the psychiatrist after they take me away in the straight-jacket!”

Lucky for me, when those little keet feet hit the linoleum in front of the door, the keet went sliding and I grabbed it.

That's the little gray one hopping out of the water dish.

Once I got it back in the brooder box, I threw a towel over the box and went looking for a screen to put over it so there’d be no more jailbreaks. I now have 1 chick and 3 keets cheeping away in a hopefully escape proof box.

And I’m NOT going back outside for fear I might hear more cheeps!

Play this movie, and you'll hear a lot of those locator cheeps!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CSA Basket of the Week

Well, I leave it to you experts out there (if you buy food, you're an expert, right?), what do you think of this basket of food?

I don't usually leave pictures full sized, but if you click on this, it'll bring up a huge picture so you can get pretty good detail on this week's items.

There is a nice basket of berries there in front I need to clean. To the right is a package of sausage, hot. And I do mean hot. Last time I cooked some of this, it was so hot we couldn't eat it, and The Farmer loves to pile jalapeno peppers on salads or sandwiches. I have to wonder if they put it in the baskets because nobody else wants it.

As you can see in the basket, there's 3 yellow squash, a cucumber, 6 little tomatoes, 3 onions, and a few sprigs of herbs. Oh, and a box of mixed beans that are decent.

Now, research by myself and a friend at the local Publix and Farmer's Market would suggest the following prices (and I tried to err on the generous side):

  • $4.50 Beans (selling .42/ounce for organically grown beans at Publix)
  • $4.99 Berries (per quart at Farmer's Market; guessing that's right size)
  • $-.50 Cucumber (2 for $1 at Farmer's Market)
  • $2.50 Herbs ($2.50 for bag with about 12 sprigs at Publix)
  • $-.45 Onions (10 for $1.49 at Farmer's Market)
  • $6.00 Sausage (for 1 1/2 pounds as advertised on CSA site)
  • $1.99 Squash (8 or 9 for $1.99 of young squash at Farmer's Market)
  • $2.10 Tomatoes (10 for $3.50 at Farmer's Market)
    $23.03 Total

We started the second week of May, and run through the first week of October. As near as I can tell, that's 21 weeks for $650, or $30.95 a week. If I'm wrong and there's another week in there, it'd only be $29.54 a week, but I think it's 21 weeks and the higher price.

I know they have to buy baskets and boxes, but then, the people at the Farmer's Market and Publix had to package their goods also, so I don't really think it's fair to add anything on the cost for that.

I would also hope that as their garden produces more, we'd get more in the basket. But leaving quantity aside, which I realize would vary with what the garden is producing, there's the issue of quality. Maybe it's just me, but the squash are way too big - they're supposed to be young and small so there are few seeds. The cucumber is also too old, and several veggies in the past have been the same, like the snowpeas and broccoli.

The sausage is excellent quality meat, but so hot we can't eat it. The Farmer suggested I mix it with some unseasoned pork to tone down the heat, so that might work. I'd hate to feed another $6 worth of meat to the dogs.

I went into this hoping for some high quality food and a great experience to write about. I just know CSA is a good thing, and I wanted to be able to brag about how great the one was I joined. I figured, hey, I could write them up and they get some free advertisment! But you notice I've been careful not to mention the name, and even 'erased' their stamp off the sausage package.

Cause unless I'm missing something, I don't think they've earned bragging rights.


P.S. I finally figured out what form the email should take I send to the people running this particular CSA (trying to be as non-confrontational as possible). I think I will let them know I've been putting pictures of the produce on my blog, and gotten several comments, and thought they might be interested in reading some of them... then make a list of some I've gotten over the last 8 weeks, along with a comment or two of my own at the end. I'll wait for people to comment on this post, then send them an email tomorrow.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Phantom of the Peeps

Yesterday Young Son and I were doing some staining. (Yes, we are finally moving again on the bathroom remodeling project, though still quite slowly.) We had a door, several crown molding corners and a couple of corbels to stain.

Young Son went out to the workshop to get some sawhorses. When he came back, he asked me if I'd seen the dead chick in front of the feedroom door. Rats! No, and I'd been out there just a couple hours before.

There's a hen sitting on eggs under the workshed, but she hasn't shown up in the yard with any chicks in tow yet. Maybe one of her eggs hatched early? At any rate, I figured I'd check it out when we took the sawhorses back and did the evening chores.

Sure enough, there was a tiny little form on the ground in front of the feed room. Poor little fluffball! I touched it with my toe to scoot it out of the way until I could deal with it... and it peeped! Whoa! Buzzing flies notwithstanding, the little chick was still living. Guess the vulture flies would have to wait for a meal.

On first glance it looked it really bad shape, like something stepped on it, just catching the side of the head and taking the feathers and skin off. I wasn't sure if I shouldn't just put it out of its' misery, but I like to give every critter every chance to make it. I decided to take it inside and see if I could doctor it up a little then put it in an incubator for a while.

Once I cleaned all the dirt off, and used some Visine saline drops to clear the junk out of both eyes, I could see that although it was nasty looking, it wasn't as bad as I feared.

Actually, it sort of reminds me of a 'Phantom of the Opera' mask.

I'm not positive both eyes are undamaged, but they're open and the chick is moving around. The little peep is now residing in a brooder box with a nice heat lamp to keep it warm, and a teddy bear to cuddle up to.

Hopefully the little Phantom gets to grow up and make lots of operatic clucks.

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