Friday, September 22, 2017

Drying Herbs for Herbal Tea

12:19 AM
You've grown herbs for herbal tea or tisane, and you're now ready to harvest them and dry them. But what is the best method for drying herbs? Should you dry them in your oven? Should you buy a dehydrator? Should you simply air dry?

The good news is that drying herbs for tea is relatively simple, but you should be aware that some methods are better than others. I'll discuss each of the ways to dry your herbs and you can decide what's right for you...READ MORE

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Geese and Goslings

4:53 PM
This year, at least two of my hens went broody.  Since I didn't have any roosters for a while (long story, that), I decided that since I lost my best geese to disease and predators, I had a choice of either paying $20 per gosling or hatching my own.  I had one Emden gander and one Chinese goose left.  So, I rolled the dice and stuck eggs beneath the two chickens.
Louise and Eeequa

Christmas and Goose Whisperers

Naturally the most annoying gander survived.  Christmas (you can guess what's going to become of him) is an aggressive bird who is mostly bluster, but neither Larry or I really like him much.  Part of it had to do with the fact we didn't raise him like we raised Louise and Eeequa, our first geese. I had gotten the Emden and Chinese from a family who were giving them away.  I suspect that they didn't realize how aggressive geese can be when they're left to their own devices.  And, quite frankly, they're noisy, messy, and can be a pain in the butt.  The woman had children, and when I went and caught the gander with little problems, it caused one child to ask if I was a "goose whisperer."

The mom explained that he was fascinated with "animal whisperers" on TV.  So, there you have it, folks.  I am a "goose whisperer."

Back to the Geese Eggs

So, I really didn't expect much when it came to hatching the geese eggs.  I candled them on a daily basis and started seeing development.  To my surprise, it appeared that three eggs had taken off out of four.  I then gathered a bunch of eggs and stuck them under another hen.  Two appeared to develop as well.

I didn't expect to get anything, so one day when I was checking eggs, I found a pip.  A "pip," for those who aren't familiar with the terminology, is where the chick cracks the egg and may have a little hole for breathing.  After a chick "pips" it takes a while for it to absorb its egg sack so it has food for the next few days while it gains strength and figures the world out.  I left the eggs alone for a while, waiting for the "zip" -- a crack going down the egg -- and kept an eye on them.  The problem with waiting is that anything could come along and kill the chicks.  The problem with not waiting is that you can open them too soon and cause the chick to bleed to death.  Not what you want.
Brinsea Brooder

Opening the Eggs Carefully

It was somewhere around 1 am when I took the initiative and starting opening the egg.  To my delight, I hatched out a lovely gosling with yellow and gray fluff.  I put him under my Brinsea brooder, nestled hay around, and didn't expect him to live.

The next day I was greeted by a live chick and another pip.  I did the same thing again and again, and ended up with three live goslings under the brooder.  Three weeks later I had moved the three goslings who had gotten too big for the brooder and the crate they were in to a different crate, when I had the one egg pip from the second batch.  I did the same thing as the first hatches. The next day, I had a second egg pip.  When I opened up the egg, I saw I had opened it too soon.  There was a lot of blood and the chick hadn't absorbed the yolk.  But I put him under the brooder and kept the hay around him.

To my surprise, he survived, too.  He absorbed his egg and seemed fine for a little critter who had lost a lot of blood.  Which just goes to show you, sometimes you just get lucky.

Five Goslings?

I really didn't expect to have five goslings. With in time, they outgrew both the crates and then eventually figured out a way out of a cage that had been nicknamed "the bunny prison."  (It has a label saying "bunny prison" on the front. We got it from a recycled lumber store.)  So, they were loose with the chicken population.  When they were close to full size, we moved them to the geese pen that we had used to raise the baby goats. (The adult geese moved out with the adult goats.)

So, now I have five Chinese/Emden cross geese along with their obnoxious father and their calm mother.  They look at Larry and me as their parents and are very social.  And loud.  Very loud.


Disclosure: The links I've provided go to my affiliate, Amazon, and I receive a small percentage if you decide to purchase. I only recommend those items I use or think are high quality. If you enjoy this blog and are planning on purchasing something, please use the links and support this blog.  Thanks!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grow Your Own Tea and Herbal Tea Plants!

12:02 AM

Do you love herbal tea but you're tired of paying for herbal teas or tisanes that use substandard herbs and spices? The great news is you can grow your own herbal tea plants year round that taste terrific. What's more, they are a fraction of the cost of store bought tisanes. What's more, you can mix your homegrown herbal tea with quality spices that will taste awesome...READ MORE

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Homestead Corner: Summer Colds, Wildfires, and Getting Back to Preserving

12:45 AM
Normally my preps for winter would be in full force, but a nasty summer virus hit me.  It acted suspiciously like the flu, but it could have been anything, really.

Back to the Farmer's Market

We've had a lot of wildfires in our area.  That, along with the unseasonably hot weather had made being outdoors impossible.  Naturally, it aggravated the cold I picked up. So, I missed going to the Farmer's Market for two weeks.  When I did get there, I managed to get tons of peppers and celery for drying.  I also picked up bok choy and sugar snap peas for stir fry plus salad.  Oh, and one of the vendors offered a sale on corn on the cob as a last hour sale.

Making My Own Extracts

So, I stumbled across recipes for making your own extracts.  I'm low on vanilla extract, took a look at check out what the FDA is advising.  (Tonka beans, incidentally, are illegal in the United States for this exact reason.)
Vanilla beans
the cost of a small bottle of vanilla extract and just about died.  Nearly $20 for pure vanilla extract?  Oh. My. God.  What's worse is that some versions of vanilla extract is made from tonka beans and not vanilla beans. A lot of Mexican vanilla is made from tonka beans, which contains coumarin.  Coumarin is a serious blood thinner, similar to warfarin (the stuff used in rat poison).  You don't have to believe me;

So, I walked into a liquor store (not hard to find one in Montana) which was adjacent to a restaurant I've eaten in the past.  The recipe called for vodka, which when I looked at the very costly (more than $36/bottle) that the author recommended, I chose the cheap corn Vodka at $10/liter.  I had picked up vanilla beans at the local natural foods store and managed to score a decent price on them. (Some $2 and something a bean, which is amazingly cheap.)  Anyway, so I had a liter of rotgut booze and three vanilla beans. When I got home, I also put together mint extract.  I'll be writing about my fun putting those together.


I thought I was pulling chokecherries out of the freezer.  Instead, I discovered I had huckleberries.  So, I'll be canning those so they will keep.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chicken Addiction and the Urban Chicken Owner

3:23 AM
"Hi, I'm Maggie and I'm a chicken addict."

You may be laughing right now, but I'll admit, I have a chicken problem. Like many of my fellow chicken owners, I've been befuddled by what is now termed "chicken math." In chicken math 6 chickens somehow equal 24, 15, 57 or 108. Grown adults who have gone to college - and in my case have engineering degrees - are seemingly befuddled by the concept that we're only going to own 6 chickens (or whatever the number). As a result, we end up owning a whole flock of birds... READ MORE

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Would You Go to an Overglorified Vending Machine Instead of a Local Grocer?

2:04 AM
A new Silicon Valley startup is looking to replace the corner store.  The company, called Bodega, a slang term for a corner store owned by immigrants, is looking to put their unmanned boxes in more than 100,000 locations so there is a Bodega within 100 feet of your location.  The Bodega only carries nonperishable goods. These boxes would service customers through AI and apps that you can use from your smartphone to unlock the boxes.  It would then charge your credit card for any purchases you might make.


Who is Behind the Bodega?

The genius behind this new way to shop are two former Google employees.  Like so many things becoming automated, they hope to automate your purchases.  Given that nearly everything we buy comes from somewhere else -- and the process is largely automated --  does it make sense that customer service should be the one hold out?

Naturally, this has caused a backlash within the immigrant communities who see this as a way to replace them.  One of the founders of Bodega claims he got the name from his grandfather who ran his own Latino bodega.  But owners of mom and pop shops aren't so sure. They believe that the founders intend to eliminate their stores by providing a convenient shopping experience.


What's Next?

The Bodega, itself, isn't particularly innovative -- the company's marketing campaign and strategy is where the innovation lies.  Imagine if you were running out of sugar and needed to buy some -- would you go to the local store or to a vending machine on the same floor of your apartment and purchase it?  You may say the store, but let's use another scenario:let's say it's Christmas and the stores are closed. That vending machine is looking mighty tempting now.

Our culture is one that values convenience.  We see it in our foods, our stores, and our lives, so it is obvious that there is a niche for the Bodega machines.  But maybe in the not too distant future, we may be looking at stores with perishable items without employees, where you don't know whether your food came from the United States, China, Argentina, or Canada.  Most people may not care, and that is what big agriculture is depending on.  But if you do care about where your food comes from, perhaps it is important knowing who is stocking your shelves and with what items.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Chokecherries: Are You Ignoring an Important Fruit in Your Backyard?

8:37 PM
For years I've passed by trees that hung low with red to black fruits.  I honestly had no clue what they were, so I figured they were poisonous.  The reality is that they're anything but poisonous.  I discovered that they were chokecherries and black cherries that are amazing when made into jams and other foods.

Behold, The Lowly Chokecherry

I've heard about chokecherries for years.  Back East, chokecherries were something someone else used.  The name implied that eating them were nasty.   Despite the name, they are amazing little berries.  The only part of the chokecherry that is safe to eat is the fruit.  The seeds, leaves, bark, roots, and twigs carry a toxin called  Hydrocyanic acid (HCN) or Prussic acid. Prussic acid become cyanide when consumed -- definitely toxic and potentially deadly.  The good news is that the fruit is awesome and perfectly safe.

How People Use Chokecherries

The common way people used them in the past was dried.  I'm not sure if the cyanide leaves the seeds when they're heated or dried,** but Native Americans pounded them into a powder and used them as a  flour.  It was such a ubiquitous berry and so often used that both the Blackfoot and the Cheyenne simply called it "the berry."  That's hard to argue with, really.

I do know that the berries are totally safe to consume especially when cooked in jams, jellies, or in wine. Chokecherries are amazingly versatile berries that you can use in just about anything.  I've made chokecherry syrup, chokecherry jam, and chokecherry "soda  pop."

Why Chokecherries?

Chokecherries have an amazing flavor when cooked.  Raw, they can be anything from mildly sweet to pucker-your-face tart.  They're high in Vitamin K, B6 and other B Vitamins.  They're also high in fiber.  Because they grow across the US and Canada, it's hard to imagine a food resource that is as useful, or as free. 

Where Chokecherries Grow

Chokecherries grow in the northern parts of the United States and through the mountain ranges such as the Appalachians and the Rockies. It grows in the western part of the US all the way down to Colorado and Kansas.  I've seen them grow in disturbed soil, in drainage areas, and near creeks. They tend to like sunny areas, so you won't find them in dark timber.

Recognizing Chokecherries

Buckthorn (poisonous)
Chokecherries are easy to recognize, but there are imposters out there that are poisonous.  The chokecherry imposter is the common buckthorn, which is also an invasive tree. Buckthorns have a thorn at the end of the branch (hence the name), and have leaves which are smooth and are in opposing pairs (each leaf stem is directly opposite of another on the branch.)  Chokecherries and black cherries have thinner leaves with serrated edges.  Their leaves grow in an alternate pattern.  Furthermore, if you pick some fruits and mash them, it will become more apparent whether you have a chokecherry or a buckthorn.  Chokecherries have one pit per fruit and look like cherry pits.  Buckthorns have 2-4 seeds within their fruit, thus identifying them immediately.  If you are still uncertain or cannot tell the difference between the two, do not eat the fruit.  Instead, have an expert identify your chokecherries for you because buckthorns are very toxic. Here are some good guides for identifying chokecherries: How to Identify Wild Chokecherries, and this guide from the Iowa State University County Extension.

Picking Your Chokecherries

Chokecherries are ripe when they turn deep red to black.  Different species will dictate which color the berries will turn.  When in doubt, talk to your county extension office.

Picking chokes can be a serious effort or can go easy if you have the right tools. I bought a berry picker last year, and I will never go back to hand picking. You can gather gallons of berries in no time at all with this picker, so check it out.  (And yes, I get a small bump from being an affiliate, but if you'd like to support this blog, please use my links.)

Chokecherry Recipes 

As I've said, I've made various chokecherry products including chokecherry jam, chokecherry syrup, and chokecherry soda.  Here are some excellent recipes for you to try from the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and from Mother Earth News.  Let me know if you have any recipes you've found that are particularly wonderful.


 ** I spoke to my sister who had been a toxicologist nurse for the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center and had her look up the cyanide in chokecherries.  She looked through what is apparently the definitive text for toxicology and told me that it appears that heating does not destroy the organic cyanide compounds within the seed, so drying or cooking them does NOT make them safe.  If you have better knowledge than that, please feel free to come forward and educate me.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

Becoming Locavore

1:00 PM
Eat locally, think globally" is the motto of many locavores. When I moved to Montana in 2007, I was at once surprised and pleased by a locavore movement that existed near my town. Most of the grocers carry "Made in Montana" meat, produce, grains and other items. There are books with Montana recipes for the seasons. But what is locavorism exactly and will it save the planet?


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Preparing for Wildfires and Other Natural Disasters

12:30 PM
I dread the summer. While most people think of hot weather as a time for playing in the pool, picnics and other summertime activities, I keep an eye out for wildfires. I've lived in the mountains of Montana and Colorado for more than 30 years and have been put under evacuation and evacuation standbys three times. I've been through at least seven major fires nearby...READ MORE

Note: We've had an awful fire season this year.  With the Houston floods and other hurricanes making landfall, here's a way to prepare for any disaster.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Homestead Corner: Latest Winter Preparations

1:00 PM
I've decided to try writing a homestead piece summarizing what I did the following week to prepare for winter.

  • Picked feral oregano and dried it in the dehydrator.
  • Picked feral thyme and dried it in the dehydrator.
  • Made chokecherry "soda" and canned it for later use.
  • Began drying off the goats.
  • Dried carrots and mushrooms.  
  • Hung up catnip to dry.
  • Bagged dill to dry.
Other things that have already been done:
  • Made 7 1/2 pints of dill pickles.
  • Made 7 jars of green salsa.
  • Made 7 quarts of tomato sauce.
  • Dried strawberry and ginger mint.
  • Made kale chips.
  • Harvested chokecherries.
  • Harvested elderberries.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Buzzing about Bee Bread

3:49 PM
Bees are interesting critters.  Not only do they pollinate a vast majority of our crops, but they have harbored one of the mysteries of life: how queen bees are made.  For years, scientists thought that bees became queens by eating "royal jelly."  Well, a new study says we might have gotten it backwards.

A study was done where bee larva were fed the same thing, only one group was fed a special microRNA found in bee bread.  Bee bread is a mixture of honey and pollen, but it also has a plant-derived miRNA (microRNA).  It's this miRNA that switches off the gene that makes a larva into a queen. Those fed the miRNA had smaller ovaries and smaller bodies. It may not be the only way a bee becomes a worker, but it's obvious that bee bread is a key part.  So, you are what you eat.  At least, if you're a bee.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Grousing About Grouse

11:49 PM
We were walking through the timber when suddenly we heard the distinctive sound of ruffled feathers as a grouse exploded from its hideout.  I had some choice words for it as the bird gave me the bird and soared downhill, never to be seen again.

Grouse.  If it's not on the menu, well, it should be. If you've never hunted grouse, you're missing an incredibly tasty bird that must be added to your diet.  A mountain grouse will make a good meal for anyone, and if you roast the grouse, you'll feel like royalty when you take a bite.  Yeah, it's that good... READ MORE

Friday, August 25, 2017

You Need to Start Saving Seeds -- Easy and Sustainable!

12:54 AM
It's getting to be that time of year when our gardens are starting to wind down. If you're a lazy farmer,
chances are you've let some of your plants already go to seed.  That's actually a good thing, if you think about it.  Saving seeds is an excellent way to maintain sustainability and to take your future into your own hands -- instead of relying on big corporations to provide your food for you.

Why Bother to Save Seeds?

It's hard to imagine a day when we have no food.  And yet, throughout human history, people have endured famines.  We're facing a real possibility now with monoculture harvests that are genetically engineered.  Although many scientists endorse and back GMOs (genetically modified organisms), one only has to look into history at what monoculture crops have done.  We can point to the Irish potato famine as the poster child for why we shouldn't be planting all of one species or subspecies of food plants, genetically modified or not. Furthermore, there are patents on GMOs which prohibit people from saving and using that seed.  Don't believe me?  Monsanto has filed lawsuits against some 147 farmers since 1997 for saving their patented seeds for reuse.  And they have won, because food is apparently patented.  As we progress toward more GMOs, there are fewer heritage plants left, more monoculture crops, and other non-sustainable practices.

Why Worry About GMOs?

Now, whether the GMOs are safe to eat or not are up for debate.  While some folks are naturally hinky about eating a plant with bacterial or animal DNA in it, the issue is more how much herbicide and insecticide doused the plants and ended up in your food. How nutritionally dense are the GMOs compared to heritage plants.  We know that our fruits and vegetables are becoming less nutritious because of soil depletion, due to modern food production methods, so it's obvious that GMOs wouldn't have the same nutritional content as those foods grown using sustainable methods.

From a Scientific Point of View, Monoculture is Bad

Monoculture is a bad idea.  It's founded on the principle of planting one species, variety, or subspecies of plants, or investing in one variety or breed of livestock. Big agriculture often does this to maximize yields and profits.  It's a nice idea until a disease or pest adapts to target that particular variety.  In history, we've seen how disease wiped out entire crops and herds.  Yes, it cause famine, with undeniable human suffering.

Any engineer knows that having single points of failure is a bad idea.  And that is precisely what
we're doing with our agriculture.  The more we rely on one source, one variety, one breed, we open ourselves up for real problems.

You won't save the planet saving seeds, but you'll be taking a step in the right direction securing your own food. Saving heritage seeds from your garden can make the difference between having food and not having food.  Yes, it is that serious.

Saving Seeds is Easy

If you've never gathered seeds, you're in for a real treat.  Saving seeds is remarkably easy and ensures that you will have a crop next year.  If you have fruit, you'll have to wait for it to ripen in order to save seeds.  If you have beans or pods, you'll have to wait for the pods to dry out and get the beans out that way.  If your plant has flowers, wait for them to dry out and collect the seeds there.  Dr. Vandana Shiva and her colleague, Rishi Kumar, the founder of The Growing Club, shows you how in the video below.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Welcome to an Updated Eating Wild Montana!

4:56 AM
As they say in the advertisements: New Look!  I've been meaning to revamp the blog for some time,  
but hadn't had the time to do it.  But with the LocaCarnivore (our sister site) up and running with a spiffy format, this site needed a serious overhaul.  (By the way, while you're at it, do check out The LocaCarnivore and let me know what you think.)

Ewww, Bugs!

First, I'll admit that there's going to be some bugs somewhere. No matter how careful I am, it's bound to happen.  Two I know of, which I'll be fixing in the next couple of days, but I'm sure something else will crop up.  On the other hand, this new format is more flexible and modern, which means it's in a hopefully a more reader-friendly format. 

The two bugs have to do with comments and social networking.  I need to update the links on both.  But have no fear, I'll be doing that very soon.  Stay tuned...


You may notice that we have advertisers!  Yay!  They're affiliates, so if you see something you're interested in, please go through the links and make a purchase.  You'll not only be buying some cool stuff, but you'll also be supporting this website and keeping it up and running.  That will enable me giving you the best possible content.  If you have an ad blocker, I'd ask that you turn it off for this site. The ads aren't obnoxious (no sound, no popups, and no moving gifs) like some ads, so if you do turn off the ad blocker, you might just see something you might like on a rather static link.  If you don't purchase, that's okay, too.

Watch for My Newsletter!

In the upcoming weeks, I'll be setting up Mailchimp to send out a nice newsletter.  The newsletter will deliver content right to your mailbox, so you don't have to check out Eating Wild Montana every day for new content.  Of course, your information will be private and won't ever be sold, and I'll never spam you.  Because I use Mailchimp, it's a snap to subscribe and unsubscribe. 

So, watch this blog for some really exciting changes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Preserving the Harvest and Canning Tomatillo Salsa

1:39 PM
This year, I've had the luck of happening into cucumbers and tomatillos for free.  (These kinds of things sometimes happen when you live in a rural area.)  So, I immediately set about preserving them for use.  I love green salsa, so getting a bunch of tomatillos was a huge windfall.

My own tomatillos are still blossoming, which makes these excellent enough to create a salsa I can enjoy now.  When my four tomatillos produce fruits, I'll be able to make some more.  Or maybe I'll just use them in one of my Mexican-type dishes.

Waterbath Canning

Of all the canning, waterbath canning is probably the easiest and cheapest to accomplish. Basically you need a waterbath canning pot and canning jars, lids, and rings. The important thing is to have a canner that works.  The cheapest is the stovetop variety.  It sits on the stove filled with water and you put your filled jars covered with the lids and rings and boil the water for the prescribed amount of time plus any time extra for higher altitudes.

I live at about 4000 ft, which requires me to process roughly an extra 10 minutes.  This is because at higher altitudes, water boils at lower temperatures. The lower temperatures cause cooking to take longer, and since you're pasteurizing when your waterbath can, you're trying to hit the magic time of 161 F throughout everything to ensure there are no nasty microbes in your food as well as heat the jars and lids enough to make a firm seal. This article gives you the times you need to use as well as an explanation as to why you must increase the time.

As I said, most waterbath canners are the stovetop variety, but Ball has created a nifty electric type that will plug in like a crockpot. I kind of like that, since it doesn't take up a burner.

The Recipe and Notes

In the past, I've used a recipe a farmer gave me.  I still defer to parts of it, but I mostly use Ball's Tomatillo Salsa recipe.  The recipe that the farmer gave me was basically tomatillos, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and cilantro.  With the Ball recipe, I will substitute lemon juice for the lime juice and sometimes the vinegar.  I eliminated the onions. If I don't have hot peppers, I'll add Tabasco's jalapeno sauce. If I'm out of garlic, I'll use granulated garlic powder.  In the past, I did not use cumin.  This year, I tried some cumin, but I'm not sure if I will continue using it in later recipes.

Be sure to use fresh lids (you can reuse the rings and jars) and wash them thoroughly.  Lots of recipes say to sterilize the jars, but in most cases that's not needed because you'll be getting rid of the bad bugs when you process the food in the canner.  Plus, you'll never get the food sterilized.  If you're really concerned, boil the jars in the canner.  I usually keep the jars warming in the canner anyway to avoid breakage, which when they're exposed to that much heat pretty much kills off any pathogens on the jars.  I pour hot water on the lids to keep them warm so they don't have issues when I get the canner fired up.

I had so many tomatillos, that I doubled the recipe and still ended up with six and a half pints.  Sometimes you just get that. So, I have a bunch of green salsa which is awesome.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How to Make Tallow Candles from Deer Fat

10:13 PM
You got a deer this season! Congratulations! At this point, you've noticed that the deer had a bunch of fat on it and instead of tossing it in the trash, you were wondering if there was something easy you could do with it. It's no good for eating, being extremely gamey, but it does make excellent candles from the tallow... READ MORE


About This Article  -- I will occasionally be posting some of the articles I've written on other websites. I encourage to you explore my other articles because this helps support me as an author. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Keyhole Garden - How to make an African style raised bed

2:28 PM
I ran across this video people have been talking about on the permaculture site. While Montana isn't Africa (thankfully -- I don't need all the heat, bugs, and wildlife that they have in Africa. We have enough dangerous predators, thank you), we do have some problems with dry conditions. It will pretty much stop raining around July 1st and we won't see much in precipitation until September or October. The problem around here is that it's hard to create a decent garden with this soil. A raised, keyhole garden sounds perfect.