Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

postheadericon New Chicks!

I had a couple of visitors the other day here on the farm who follow the blog and wanted to meet EVERYONE! So we went around the farm and met all the alpaca, dogs, Badger Bunny and the Chickens.

They immediately pointed out, and were frankly kinda mad, that I had neglected to post another chicken update introducing our three newest hens. The three were adopted in September from some friends on Shaw island.

Scrawny Greta is a Lakenvelder. She is all you could want in a hen. She has spurs and a comb like a rooster but lays great eggs! She loves to spend most of her time hunting for bugs and foraging around the yard. Brave Heart and Pearl are both Black Australorps and lay the beautiful brown eggs.

So without further delay here are the three hens that round out our dozen chickens.

Scrawny Greta (foreground) and Pearl (background)

Scrawny Greta strutting her stuff!

Shy Pearl hiding behind the bushes.

Ever broody Brave Heart (and Henrietta's bottom.)

Here are a couple of links to find out more about Lakenvelders and Black Australorps they are both wonderful breeds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

postheadericon Pineapple-Upside-Down-Cake


Pineapple Topping
1 medium fresh pineapple
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened but still cool
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 egg white at room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk at room temperature

I use a 10-inch cast-iron pan but if you don't have one...lightly spray 9-inch round, 2-inch deep cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. For the pineapple topping: Combine pineapple and brown sugar in 10-inch skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally during first 5 minutes, until pineapple is translucent and is light brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Empty fruit and juices into a colander set over medium bowl. Return juices to skillet, leaving pineapple in strainer (you should have about 2 cups cooked fruit).

Simmer juices over medium heat until thickened, beginning to darken, and mixture forms large bubbles, 6 to 8 minutes, adding any more juices released by fruit to skillet after about 4 minutes.

Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla; pour caramel mixture into prepared cake pan. Set aside while preparing cake. (Pineapple will continue to release liquid as it sits; do not add this liquid to already-reduced juice mixture.)

3. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

4. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat to combine; one at a time, add whole eggs then egg white, beating well and scraping down bowl after each addition.

Reduce speed to low; add about one-third of flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add half of milk and beat until incorporated; repeat, adding half of remaining flour mixture and remaining milk, and finish with remaining flour. Give final stir with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl to ensure that batter is combined. Batter will be thick.

5. To bake: Work fast to put cooked pineapple in cake pan in even layer, gently pressing fruit into caramel. Using rubber spatula, drop mounds of batter over fruit, then spread batter over fruit and to sides of pan. Tap pan lightly against work surface to release any air bubbles.

Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack, then place inverted serving platter over cake pan. Invert cake pan and platter together; lift off cake pan. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours; then cut into pieces and serve.

Easy Peasy Chop, Chop, Chop
Cutting the Pineapple:

1. Cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple. Cut skin off from top to bottom.

2. Quarter the pineapple lengthwise. Put each quarter on it's side and cut out the core.

3. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise and then cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch chunks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

postheadericon Dream Birthday!

Well, another year older and what did I wish for for my birthday? Fence of course! What a dreamboat that Jeff is. He got me three rolls of 330' wrapped no climb pasture fence, along with the t-posts to put it up! The way to a girl's heart is truly through the pasture.

Now all I need is enough time and dry weather to get it up before spring.

Oh this photo is my birthday cake of choice, pineapple-upside-down-cake! It must be made with fresh pineapple in a cast iron pan. I'll post the recipe.

Monday, November 9, 2009

postheadericon Blimey It's Limey

Well it is that special time of year again. Lime time. Last spring I limed all but two of the fields and this past weekend it was time to finish the job. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a tendency toward moss growth especially in heavily grazed pastures. In order to keep the moss in check in my pasture I sweeten the soil with lime. This discourages moss growth and allows hopefully grass to grow.

In addition to applying the lime I also did pasture repair in the poop piles and over seeding in all pastures to promote spring growth.

I think if I could only stop the herd from grazing for a week or two all of the pastures would look great. Not likely to happen.

Sorry about the boring picture. You and try to make Lime look fun. Just wait until you see the pasture in the spring!
Thursday, November 5, 2009

postheadericon Autum Diva- a.k.a. Munchkin Martian

I thought I would post this just because she was so insistent on getting her photo taken. I went out to get a couple of updated pictures of the crias and Munchkin Martian kept getting her mug in the shot. Every time I turned around there she was.

Don't you just love her?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

postheadericon Halloween!

Here are some of our Halloween pictures!


Lifting and laughing

Pug Pumpkin

Spooky! Scary Yeti!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

postheadericon A day of Beauty

I used the extra hour of sleep to muster the energy to tackle a couple of my least favorite jobs. Nail trimming and medications. The weather was dry and these chores couldn't be put off any longer.

My boys, Garett, Kahana and Luke were my able assistants. Garett was the holder, Kahana assistant holder, nurse and occasional trimmer, and Luke chief herder. We warmed up with the boys and then moved on to the girls.

All animals had their nails trimmed, bodies scored for weight and winter preparedness and all animals treated for mites. I decided because we had animals traveling here from different farms and because our girls went out for breeding to do a preemptive treatment for mites which can become more active in the winter. The Frontline treatment I am using for mites is fairly new and requires that the herd be treated four times. Each treatment is given three weeks apart. (I will try to get a post up about mites, pretty interesting stuff.)

Three hours later all the animals were happy as clams bathing in the sun. We were happy to have the job finished and it wasn't even lunch time. I love daylight savings time!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

postheadericon Pumpkin Pie Recipe

My son Luke decided that we really needed to make pumpkin pie out of some of our harvest we found a great recipe on the internet. Don't be discouraged by how long the recipe looks. It is easy. The bottom part is just telling you how to get the pumpkin turned into glop. Pretty intuitive if you cook often.

a pretty big pie pumpkin
A sharp, large serrated knife
an ice cream scoop
a large microwaveable bowl or large pot
1 large (10 inch) deep-dish pie plate and pie crust

1 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
one half teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
one half teaspoon salt (optional, I don't use any)
4 large eggs
3 cups pumpkin glop (ok... "sieved, cooked pumpkin") see below for how to prep this
1.5 cans (12oz each) of evaporated milk (I use the nonfat version)

Note: if you do not have cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger, you can substitute 3 teaspoons of "pumpkin pie spice". It's not exactly the same, but it will do.

Mix up all the ingredients with a hand mixer or blender.

Note: If you can't get evaporated milk, you can substitute nonfat dried milk - make it twice as concentrated as the directions on the box say to reconstitute it. It won't be the same as evaporated milk, but it ought to come close.

Bake the pie
Bake at 425 F (210 C ) for the first 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 F ( 175 C ) and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
I use a blunt table knife to test the pie. It comes out pretty clean, when the pie is done.

TIP: What do you do if you end up with more filling than will fit in your pie crust(s)? Easy! Of course, you can make another, smaller pie crust and fill a small pie pan... or just grease any baking dish, of a size that the extra filling will fill to a depth of about 2 inches , and pour the extra filling in.. then bake it. It will be a crustless pumpkin pie that kids especially love!
TIP: You may want to cover the exposed edges of the crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent them from burning!

Pumpkin Preparation aka how do I get the pumpkin puree?
There are several ways to cook the pumpkin; This is my preferred method.

Step One:
Cut up pumpkin and remove seeds and stringy stuff.

Step Two:
Cook the pumpkin,
Put the pumpkin in a microwaveable bowl (You may need to cut the pumpkin further to make it fit). The fewer the number of pieces, the easier it will to scoop out the cooked pumpkin afterward. Put a couple of inches of water in the bowl, cover it, and put in the microwave.

Cook for 15 minutes on high, check to see if it is soft, then repeat in smaller increments of time until it is soft enough to scoop the innards out. Normally it takes 20 or 30 minutes in total.

Step Three:
Scoop out the cooked pumpkin. Once it is cooked until it is soft, it is easy to scoop out the guts with a broad, smooth spoon, (such as a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop). Use the spoon to gently lift and scoop the cooked pumpkin out of the skin. It should separate easily an in fairly large chucks, if the pumpkin is cooked enough.
The skin or rind will probably simply lift off with your fingers. I'll bet you didn't realize making your own pumpkin glop... err, "puree" was this easy!

Note: there are many varieties of pumpkin and some make better pies that other (due to sugar content, flavor, texture and water content. Drier, sweeter, fine-grained pies; the small (8" across) ones called "pie pumpkins" are best.

Watery pumpkin?
If your pumpkin puree has standing, free water, you may want to let it sit for 30 minutes and then pour off any free water. That will help prevent you pie from being too watery! Beyond, that, I have not found that the water makes a difference - I wouldn't be TOO concerned about it!

Step Four:
To get a nice, smooth consistency, I use potato ricer. You could use a hand blender, regular blender or whatever you have.

There you go you are on your way to the best pumpkin pie you ever had!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

postheadericon Last of the Season Tomato Soup ala Bob Nutt

We harvested the last of the seasons tomatoes and had a few more than we knew what to do with. Our friend Bob Nutt gave us this great recipe to use and we whipped it up. Froze some and ate some too!

End of the Season Tomato Soup ala Bob

6 Tb butter
6 Tb virgin olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
8+ carrots chopped
4+ celery chopped
16 large tomatoes chopped
4 c chicken stock
1 c brown rice or barley or?
2 grindings black pepper
1 t dried basil
Pinch sugar

Melt butter and olive oil in stock pot.
Add onions, carrots, celery. Cover. Cook over medium heat until veggies partially cooked @ 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, stock, rice. Bring to boil.
Reduce to simmer for @ 1 hour.
Add pepper and basil.
Add water/stock as needed.

I didn't peel the tomatoes and it STILL came out great. I guess laziness sometimes works out!

The picture doesn't look like much but the flavor is so fresh.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

postheadericon Pumpkin Curing

The first important step is harvesting them. They should not be picked while they are still soft. Green or immature pumpkins usually will last only a few weeks at normal house temperature before they begin to shrivel or mold. Pumpkins should be fully colored with a fairly hard rind.

Picking is generally best done at the end of the growing season -- after the vines have withered and the stems have actually turned brown and begun to dry. Regardless of what the poet says, you do not want to see frost on the pumpkin, so harvest before we get freezing night temperatures.

Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the pumpkins and gourds from the vine. Always be sure to leave about 2 – 4 inches of stem. Don’t break the stem from the fruit, since this can encourage decay.

Wash the fruits in warm, soapy water to remove any traces of soil that may be adhering to them. Then rinse them in a diluted household disinfectant solution. For this purpose a five to ten percent chlorine bleach solution works fine (one part bleach to ten parts water). This rinse will destroy the fungi and bacteria, which are the prime agents of spoilage.

After wiping off any excess disinfectant, the pumpkins and gourds can be spread out on layers of newspaper or on window screening, pallets or in my case something I found in the barn. The essential thing is to arrange a situation that will provide good air circulation.

Cure them for a week or two where it is warm – at least 70°F. This will toughen the skin and heal surface cuts. Then store in the attic, basement, garage or shed. Whatever area is chosen should be dry, provide good air movement and have temperatures between 45 and 60°F.
The pumpkins are then ready for decorating, carving or eating.

Out of doors, carved pumpkins will usually last a week of two. Painted ones will last for many months, if protected from hard frosts. Baked into a pie, the pumpkin probably won’t last more than a day!
Monday, October 19, 2009

postheadericon It is really fall!

This morning I knew it was fall, I could see my breath and the animals were all cushed outside with frost on their backs. It is wonderful to see the little outlines that their bodies leave when they get up. You can really tell where everyone slept.

Last weekend the kids and I spent much of the time getting ready for winter. Yard clean up, putting away of the yard furniture and best of all pumpkin harvesting.

About a week ago we harvested the 'pie' pumpkins (which I highly recommend growing, very satisfying) and have been curing them all week. I will post the directions for how this is done. We should be eating pumpkin through January if I did everything correctly.

Yesterday we harvested the last of the seasons tomatoes and the BIG pumpkins. It took two people, big strong people to lift a couple of them. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

postheadericon She is here!!!!

Yeah! The last cria of the year is here for us to enjoy! Drum roll please! Introducing Mickey's soft, oh so darn soft, baby girl! As is always the case here we are toying with different names, so jump on in and help us choose if you would. Remember the name must contain the name of an herb to be in keeping with our self imposed herb theme this year.
Yes, this is a call to action!

postheadericon Cows in My Meadow

It is no secret to my immediate family that I love my neighbor’s cattle. On misty mornings I love to wake up and find that Bob Ottie has moved his steer to the pasture that can be seen from my front porch.

Imagine my delight when he came riding up, yes, I did say riding, like on a horse, to my home to ask if he could pasture his cows on my lower field for a few days. It was almost like winning the lottery, okay a little lottery.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

postheadericon The New Kids in Town

Well the babies are here, a couple less than we thought we were having, but everyone a joy. Brooklyn and her mom Trina decided even though they were pregnant in the Fall, confirmed by ultrasound, that they were not pregnant come spring. The doctor told us this is not uncommon especially after the unusually cold winter. “It isn’t uncommon. The pregnancy is just reabsorbed.” I am not sure what I think of this but…

Orcas Moon Summer Thyme

On Fathers Day, the first day of summer and, coincidentally our son Luke’s first communion came our first girl Orcas Moon’s Summer Thyme. Manhattan didn’t look like anything was happening when we all trundled off to church at 12:30. By the time we made it back less than two hours later here was our new cria, dried off, running in the sun with the herd. Manhattan is a fantastic mother. Being a maiden we were concerned but she knocked our socks off by knowing exactly what to do.

Orcas Moon’s Rocky Cilantro

Tinkerbelle our dreamer gave birth next to our bundle of joy, Orcas Moon’s Rocky Cilantro on June 30th. Tink was a champ during delivery but, Rocky’s temperature was low when we checked it. We decided he needed a warm up with the blow dryer and a couple heating pads. This worked and he was good to go. Once we took him away from Tinkerbelle to warm up she wasn’t so sure she wanted him back. It took a little convincing and a lot of holding her still for Rocky to nurse but they are now never apart.

Orcas Moon’s Sage Prince

My family has a tradition of going to the new Harry Potter movies always on the first release date. This was not going to change unless well, unless there was a baby coming. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince opened here on July 15th in Friday Harbor, just a short ferry ride away. We decided we would go to the 3:30 show. Ember showed no signs of labor all day and when we left to catch the ferry at 2:35 I thought no problem, no baby today. Alpaca usually have their babies in the morning or early afternoon at the latest unless there is a problem. Ember is a very expexperienced mom and has never had any difficulty with delivery.
Apparently Ember didn’t have any difficulty because when we came back around 7:00pm there was another perfect cria up and running around with her uber-protective mom Ember.

Now we are just waiting for one more, Mickey is due later this month and we have expectations for another beautiful cria. I’ll keep you posted.
Why don’t you come on out and see us.

Friday, August 7, 2009

postheadericon The Chicken Update

The Colonel - RIP

The Colonel, our beloved or for some feared, Buff Orpington has passed on.
Henny Penny has also passed on. She was taken by an eagle the day before the second grade field trip. We were hard pressed to explain the feathers all over the yard.

On the brighter side of things in the poultry world.

Polly (aka Polly the pullet) is a pullet no more and what is even better is that she went broody and hatched us out two lovely chicks. They are currently nameless. I call them one and two. I will try to get a picture of them and you will understand their names better.

What is interesting about Polly and her broodiness is that she sat in her nest box day after day after day. Unfortunately, she was in every hens favorite nest box. All the other hens would get in and lay their eggs on top of Polly. One night I went in and removed 28 eggs from under her, leaving and even dozen for hatching. We are fairly sure that these chicks are not hers- they look very much like a perfect combination between the Colonel and Quetzel.

We couldn’t have a proper hen house without a rooster. We were on a rooster hunt. After living with our less than kind Colonel we wanted a friendly guy.

Meet Frank! We found him on Craig's List. He brought along his favorite hen who we have called Henrietta.

Monday, August 3, 2009

postheadericon The Results are In

Okay to tell the truth -- they were in months a
go, and... I haven’t shared them with you yet! Here we go:


Funny name serious show, the biggest on the West Coast. The only one of our three that received a ribbon was Orcas Moon’s Channel brought home a fourth place ribbon in a crazy tough class of 14. An interesting note about this finish is that the first place and second place winners in Channel’s group were the White Color Champion and the Reserve White Color Champion- talk about tough, tough, tough our little girl did amazing!!!!

To determine the Champion of a color group the judge takes the top two animals from each class and judges them against each other regardless of age. It is highly unusual for both the color champion and the reserve color champion to come from the same class (like it did in Channel’s case).

Kahana did show in the performance class, which involved him taking Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva through an agility course. He won a 3rd place, some cash and a promise from me that I will never make him do agility again. He will stick to halter showing.

Northwest Alpaca Showcase

Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva took a beautiful 3rd place ribbon in a class of 9 medium brown juvenile females. In her group was the Brown Color Champion. Nice going Autumn! Orcas Moon’s Channel again knocked our socks off with a 6th place ribbon in a class of 14. The Reserve Champion was again in her class.

Kahana in addition to showing in the main halter rings participated in a junior showmanship competition where he took a fourth place ribbon. It involved handling and knowledge questions about alpaca.

Columbia Alpaca Breeders Association (CABA)

Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva took a 5th place in a class of 14 medium brown females. The Brown Color champion was in her class, tough competition. Orcas Moon’s Channel did great with a 4th place in a group of 8.

Friday, July 31, 2009

postheadericon Missing-in-Action

Okay, so admittedly I have been "missing-in-action" from the blog site. We have been so darn busy here -- I will try over the next little while to catch you all up. The high points include:

  • show results
  • baby updates
  • chicken updates
  • visitors
  • pasture explosion
  • hot hot hot weather
  • breeding, yes it is that time again
  • trailer search

Thanks for sticking with me!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

postheadericon Cows in the Meadow!

We had a big surprise a couple of nights ago while taking the dogs out. Two big cows were in our driveway. Our neighbors are in the process of re-fencing their pastures and well I guess they have more work to do. Why yes the are the same ones who lost the llama too!

A note to those paying attention...these are not the actual cows that were on my lawn.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

postheadericon Catch that Llama!

We have been working hard here on the farm. The other night after a long day of pasture repair and renewal I went out to feed the herd. But what to my wondering eyes should appear but a big black llama running down the road! After the initial shock of thinking that one of ours escaped, Jeff and I were off and running down the street. Herding a single animal in a wide open space is difficult if the animal knows you but even more so if they don't.

We ran him up our neighbor's driveway and into the open arms of his owners across the street. It seems the gate was left open and Nero decided to take a little walk-about. Kind of a fun chase, though!

postheadericon Typical Show Day

Alpaca shows all follow the same type of schedule, more or less. Here is a typical day:

6:00am wake up call then off to the barn for feeding, watering and clean-up by 7:00. There is then a required exhibitors meeting where the judges are introduced and the order of the show is distributed.

For all of the shows we went to this year there were three halter show rings. The schedule for each ring includes the order of classes of competition and the order of entry into the ring for each animal. Animals enter the ring in order of age, oldest to youngest.

The exhibitor wearing black and white, also wears the animals entry number. This number includes the animals age and last shear date. Each animal is walked diagonally across the ring and then across the front. The judge is looking at gate, and proper confirmation of the animal. Once all of the animals are in the ring they all face the judge head on for inspection, then profile and finally rear view.

Each animal is then given a hand on inspection by the judge. Some of what they are looking for are proper bite, confirmation, and fleece characteristics such as, uniformity of color and crimp, softness, handle, density and length. This is the most time consuming part of your time in the show ring.

The judge then looks again at all of the animals and often pulls one or two out to look at again. Different judges have different routines. Then six are chosen as ribbon winners and everyone else gets what is known as ‘the gate’.

Next is the most interesting and educational part of the show ring experience is the judges reasoning. The judge must explain his/her reasoning for the order of ribbon winners. Why is the blue ribbon winner better than the red ribbon winner and so on.

This is a representative day at the show. In between showing I enjoy talking to other owners and meeting their animals, browsing the vendors’ wares and going to seminars on alpaca topics.