Monday, May 13, 2013

Yay, irrigation season has begun, Pickled asparagus, Chicks outside full time

South Central Idaho is basically a desert. High desert, but still desert. Looking at Google Maps you see little green circles all over the place. All those green circles are from the irrigation pivot sprinklers. We grow a lot of alfalfa, corn, beans, and yes potatoes. Idaho is one of the top dairy producers in the US. Those cows eat a lot of alfalfa, and corn to make all that milk. There is a huge system of canals and deep water wells to make all those fields green. The big farmers use pivots sprinklers. Those are huge sprinklers on an arm that rotate around in a circle.

We don't have enough acreage to have to worry about that. What we do have is gated pipe. The water comes down the canal and fills a head gate. It's a big culvert pipe that sticks out of the ground. The head gate needs to be taller than any point down the pipe that it waters. It uses gravity to build up pressure to move the water down the pipe and out the gate. Water starts on Dave's acreage out back, then on to Andrea's, us, and then over to Rebecca. 

Those orange plastic thingies are the gates. We get our water every nine days in the evening. I go out and make sure the valve to Rebecca's is closed so all my water doesn't run out over her property. Then I make sure I don't hear any of my gates with water pouring out of them. It takes a little bit for the pressure in the pipes to build. With my big silly boots on I go through and open about every third or fourth gate about half way. The front pasture to the west gets watered overnight first. In the morning I have to tromp back out and close those gates while opening the ones to the short pasture to the north. By the time I get home from work it's all good and flooded and I close those gates and open the ones that run to the ditches under the trees and let that run over night. In the morning again I go out and close those and open the gates to the east pasture and it runs all day. In the evening I go open the valve at the end of the pipe and let all that water run to the neighbors, and walk my pipe and make sure all my gates are closed. Here's the result. A couple acres of green lush grass for the ponies and the calves.

This whole flood irrigating business will run through the first week or two in October usually. Every nine days. 

Asparagus season is here too. It grows wild on the ditch banks and at the edges of the fields around here. I never had it before I moved here. It looked weird and I wasn't about to taste it growing up. Scotty made me try a piece. Holy crap was it good. Even raw, right out of the ground I like it. I drive slowly up and down the back roads looking for either the orange mass of dead fronds from the year before, or the new bright green fronds that seem to shoot up 12 inches over night. It doesn't last long so I pick as much as I can find. This year I tried pickling it.
The neighbor down the road gave us a few jars last year that she had made, and oh man it's so good. I couldn't get a hold of her so I went exploring on the internet. Cause that's where I find every thing dontcha know? I ended up trying the recipe from this site.  

Spicy Pickled Asparagus
     4 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit your jars
     3 cups vinegar (half apple cider vinegar, half white vinegar)
     3 cups water
     2 tablespoons pickling salt
     4 tablespoons pickling spice
     1 tablespoon red hot chili flakes
     4 garlic cloves, peeled
     4 slices of lemon (I didn't have any lemons so I used a few splashes of lemon juice)

  1. Sterilize your jars in boiling water for 5 minuets
  2. Put the lemon slices in the bottom and pack the trimmed asparagus into the jars. Tuck a garlic clove                down into the spears. 
  3. Bring the vinegar, water, and spices to a boil. Pour into jars on top of asparagus leaving at least 1/2 inch of head space.
  4. Put lids and rings on the jars and process in hot water bath for 20 minuets for quarts. (You can skip this last part if you plan on just putting your pickled asparagus in the fridge).
  5. Wait at least 24 hours before eating, to give the asparagus spears a chance to get sufficiently pickly.

The chicks are officially outside chicks now. They have enough feathers, and it's warm enough that they don't need a heat lamp. The big hens have been kicked out of the run and they're pretty damned miffed about it. I didn't want them picking on the chicks, and the broody keeps stealing their eggs. They keep laying in the other boxes, (Duh) but the broody hen keeps stealing the eggs before I can get in there. This is bad because A) I'm hungry at breakfast time, and B) she'll only set for a day or two after the chicks hatch, if they do.

The old hens keep looking it at the interlopers to their run like, "Hey, why are they always eating and I can't get some too?"

So I opened the door to the run and let the little buggers out and the old biddies in. The older hens were not impressed with the grower crumbles the chicks were eating and with a few pecks to the little ones to show their displeasure everyone hunted bugs. 

I still have one pullet the is smaller than the rest, and very much smaller then the creepy meats. 

I totally understand why Carolyn's daughter won't go in the pen with the freaky little feathered mutants. They're hopping up on my feet, pecking at my legs and trying to trip me to make the food get in the bowls faster when I go in there now. I do this weird shuffle slide with my feet so none of them can get under foot and get squashed. I look like the pied piper of ugly, half feathered, huge legged little chickens when I walk out in the yard when they're out. They're all jumping along behind me begging for food. 

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