Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I was baking the other day and realized the vanilla bottle was empty. When I went to refill it from by bigger bottle, it was empty too.

I have to confess, I haven't bought vanilla in a long time. I've been making mine from vanilla beans and vodka.

It was only a few years ago that I learned you can make your own vanilla extract at home. It's very easy as long as you're prepared to buy some vodka.

Since I am not a drinker, buying alcohol is a challenge, not to mention buying hard liquor. Most liquor stores look so dodgy. The first time I bought vodka, I decided to go into the liquor store associated with my regular grocery store chain. It seemed legitimate enough and easily accessible. Looking both ways, both entering and exiting the store, I asked sheepishly for the  cheapest bottle of vodka they sold. I think it cost around $12. That was in May 2012.

The other ingredient is vanilla beans. You can buy them at most grocery stores, but they are quite expensive. You might pay between $1-3 per bean. Depending on the size of vodka bottle, you add several vanilla bean pods. You get a better flavor if you slice the bean lengthwise and expose all the little seeds.

The first time I made this, I was worried someone would see the vodka bottle in the house. So I decanted it into a random empty juice bottle. I put the vodka bottle in the bottom of my recycle bin and sighed a huge sigh of relief. It was my bad luck when I came home on recycling day to find a smashed vodka bottle right by my mailbox! Silly recycling men. They'd tossed all my recycling into the truck and the vodka bottle fell on the ground. No idea how many of my neighbors had seen it. So after that debacle, I decided it really didn't matter that much if someone saw my vodka bottle. Would someone really think I drink vodka?

So now I would suggest, simply pour out a little vodka and add the beans straight to the bottle. In my case, I poured the vodka into another bottle I had soaking. Then put your vodka bottle in a cupboard and forget about it. I do write the date somewhere on the bottle so I'll know how long it's been brewing. After about six months you'll have some splendid vanilla to use in all your recipes. Because of the alcohol content, it never needs refrigeration and will last indefinitely. And costs a fraction of the cost of vanilla extract.

I find having a small bottle of vanilla is easier to use than a large bottle.

I used this brand of vanilla beans this time, bought online.

This is the brand I used last time, bought at a grocery store.

I didn't really count the beans, but it looks like I used 6-7 this time.

I was excited to find a Texas brand of vodka to use this time.

Here's my new batch of vanilla soaking.

Here is my batch that I started in July 2013.

Left to right: unopened bottle for next time, this batch, my last batch, and the empty bottle from my first batch.

I keep both bottles at the back of my cupboard behind the flour.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Live Trap

I was surprised (and - full disclosure - a little scared) the other morning when I went into the garage and heard a rustling noise. My first panicked thought was SNAKE.

I slowly inched around to look and discovered the noise was coming from a tiny mouse trying to jump out of an old plastic waste basket we use for recycling glass bottles.

No matter how high it jumped, it couldn't quite reach the top edge to get a grip and escape.

I'm sure you're wondering what I did with it.

I took it out to the workshop where the cat lives and left it there for a treat. We clearly need a cat here at the house. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Good Deed

I feel like I did my good deed for the day. My Random Act of Kindness.

As I was driving out the driveway the other day, a hopping black bird caught my eye. I slowed down and stopped to watch awhile. It was either injured or caught on something.

So I got out of the car and took a closer look. I was bigger than it was so I wasn't too scared to get closer.

Turns out it was completed snarled up in some old plastic netting, probably from an old hay bale. Probably from the Priors. They rarely picked up trash. The more it tried to get away, the more tightly the strings got wrapped around the leg.

I held its body down with my foot and tried pulling the string off. It was too tightly wrapped around the claw. Poor bird wasn't going anywhere.  I returned to the car for some scissors. Yes, I keep scissors in the car.

Some cutting later, it was free and flew off without so much as a look back at me to say thanks.

With some difficulty I managed to pull at the netting and got it all uncovered. It was partially buried under mud, leaves and branches. I did throw it away.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Feed Bags

The stitching on the feed bags is supposed to be easy to remove. At least the stitching is designed to be undone and unravel as it's pulled. That's assuming you get the right string and pull in the right direction. Some bags are easier than other bags.

I think the stitching is done by an industrial sized serger sewing machine. At least that's what it looks like.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fighting Roosters

Our two roosters have started fighting. I only noticed it the other day when I saw they were both torn up and bleeding. I'm wondering if it was the Full Moon.

It's actually more like one rooster is picking on the other rooster. He's such a bully. And they had been getting along so well. The two were hatched at the same time and are the same age. And since we hadn't had any conflicts I figured they had sorted out who was boss early on. One has clearly been the dominant rooster all this time, especially with the girls. So I'm not sure what changed. I'm blaming the moon.

The fight consists of one pecking and pulling on the other's red comb and neck. Thus the blackened combs.
So for now, the stronger one "rules the roost" and the weaker one hides anywhere he can and stays out of the way.

Beaten up and defeated

Blackened comb

Hiding wherever he can

The boss

Monday, February 1, 2016

Round Bales

The grass in the pastures hasn't been enough to keep the cows fed and healthy. Guv'nor has been working hard to improve the quality of the grass in the pastures since we bought the property. So he's quite careful where he puts the cows at times when it's too wet because the cows will ruin all his hard work on the grass.

So we have been giving them some hay from our stockpile. Guv'nor started putting out 4 square bales in the evening, but that soon proved too difficult. Either he got home too late, he would be too tired, it would be raining, or four wouldn't be enough. So we had this idea to put out a couple round bales on the weekend to last through the week.

We've had the round bales sitting around out in the open for a long time and weren't sure if they would be good. Plus the bales came from one of the early cuttings back before we had done anything to improve the grass. He uses the tractor to move the bales around. He also puts out a couple of square bales for the bull calves who are in a separate field.

We inherited the round hay bale feeders from the Priors. One is in fairly good condition, but the other one is a bit rusty. It has taken a couple of weeks but he's able to get the bales right where he wants them. He also has been putting a few bales on the ground, but the cows make a mess with them.