Another garden visitor that’s made a few appearances! I caught this snake earlier this week (and promptly got musked) so I was impressed at how chill it was when I moved in for a photo. Contrary to previous beliefs, Garter Snakes are somewhat venomous but they can’t deliver it efficently and really have to chew on you for a while to deliver anything. They are not a serious threat even if you get bit. To remove a biting snake, pull the head forward to unhook the curved teeth, Garters do not constrict so you don’t have to worry about unwinding them but are easier to drop if you are holding them.

We are seeing more critters like snakes and frogs since the fox has reduced our poultry flock from the usual 10-30 birds to 2. Chickens and Guinea Fowl do a great job catching pests and small animals alike. We also have the front yard fenced in now, so that’s been a bit of a refuge from the birds we had. I’m planning on installing a 30 gallon pond for them next year.

Another garden visitor that’s made a few appearances! I caught this snake earlier this week (and promptly got musked) so I was impressed at how chill it was when I moved in for a photo. Contrary to previous beliefs, Garter Snakes are somewhat venomous but they can’t deliver it efficently and really have to chew on you for a while to deliver anything. They are not a serious threat even if you get bit. To remove a biting snake, pull the head forward to unhook the curved teeth, Garters do not constrict so you don’t have to worry about unwinding them but are easier to drop if you are holding them.

We are seeing more critters like snakes and frogs since the fox has reduced our poultry flock from the usual 10-30 birds to 2. Chickens and Guinea Fowl do a great job catching pests and small animals alike. We also have the front yard fenced in now, so that’s been a bit of a refuge from the birds we had. I’m planning on installing a 30 gallon pond for them next year.

Obligatory Cute Husband Post. We’ve been married for ten years and I’m still a big mush about about him.

I stole a photo of him leaving for work and that reminded me of the Rat Mods on his bike; a custom fairing made of black plastic (that bolted piece below the windsheild). Now it deflects wind better and only cost a few bucks. He also has ammo can saddle bags which actually saved my ass from getting dumped when when he did a rediculous wheelie once. =P

Keep your Harley “Geezer Glides”, dual-sport are the coolest bikes as far as I’m concerned. I never want another motorcycle that can’t go off-road.

Garden visitor!

Some of the things we picked from last summer’s gardens (2013).

From last fall: dried corn, apples, lemons, and parsley plus more from the garden in the pantry and kale replanted indoors for the winter (new leaves coming in from the ones we picked to eat).

Rat Farm living room from around late fall/early winter, before we replaced the wood stove and my planted aquarium took off.

As winter persists we’ve turned to indoor projects and finally started getting rid of the carpet, starting with the worst room. Last year we picked up enough pre-finished hickory flooring to do the bedroom (we would have loved to get enough for the whole house but that’s how it goes). It was about half off as it was a discontinued brand but we’re hoping when we get around to doing the rest of the house we can just find more hickory and it’ll match.

The hickory is awesome, there’s a lot of variation in the wood grain and it’s a very hard wood so hopefully it’ll hold up well. The pre-finished stuff is really easy to install and we don’t have to deal with the headache of trying to finish it in a hurricane of dog hair. If it does get damaged you can sand and refinish like you would with a traditional wood floor.

When we pulled up the 30-year-old carpet we found it didn’t have the standard breathable foam pad underneath but an impermeable rubber one and under that the plywood sub-floor was wet to the touch and moldy! I mixed up a bleach solution in a utility bucket and scrubbed everything with an old broom. Once open to the air it dried out pretty fast and a day later we were able to put the floor down.

What with our last Food Share bounty, I did a bit of processing. Here’s how to make your own onion powder or flakes:

Sort onions and remove any that are spoiled (moldy, mushy, discoloured, etc.). You can selectively cut out bad spots if parts of onions are otherwise fine. Peel and dice into roughly inch sized pieces (they will shrink considerably). Don’t forget t compost all those peels and scraps!

Place diced onion in a food dehydrator and run at 135 degrees F for a few hours. Don’t make it any hotter or they’ll cook or burn. They’ll be dry and papery to the touch when finished. To use as flakes store them as is, or crunch lightly for smaller pieces. Otherwise toss everything in a glass blender (plastic absorbs smells and flavours) and process on high until everything is powdered.

Store in a glass jar (again, no plastic) with a secure lid. Recycled jars are fine, I always save glass jars,such as the molasseses jar pictured. Keep cool, dry, dark, and sealed. In the cupboard your onion powder/flakes will be good for many years!

So my yearly order from Rodent Pro came Thursday! I’m very excited because aside from having a new supply of food for both my snakes, we tried rats with the ball python with success for the first time (she’s a rescue and a former picky eater who’s been gaining weight back after a long fast). If you have reptiles, I highly recommend Rodent Pro. They have a large selection of colours and sizes of rats and mice. They also sell chickens, quail, guinea pigs, and rabbits. Their shipping is expensive but it’s flat rate and the check-out has a box capacity calculator so you can get your moneys worth. They also have marked down prices pretty regularly and even on shipping you can score a deal on if you’re patient. I recommend signing up for their mailing list and watching prices until something you want is cheap, particularly shipping. It was a colossal pain in the butt dealing with Petco, driving to Minneapolis (three hours away), breeding our own mice, and buying from sketchy Ebay sellers all in an attempt to feed the snakes before we found Rodent Pro.

Judas Jr. thinks the best part was the dry ice that came in the box, though.

When handling dry ice DON’T TOUCH IT WITH YOUR BARE HANDS! Don’t put it in an airtight container or it’ll explode s gases build up and make sure you have good ventilation as too much of the gas is toxic! I used the pair of welding gloves I load the fireplace with to dump it into a roasting pan of warm water and create the fog. We had the house’s air exchanger running as well.

Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. A block of dry ice has a surface temperature of -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees C). Dry ice also has the very nice feature of sublimation — as it breaks down, it turns directly into carbon dioxide gas rather than a liquid.

I was really amused that as soon as I started opening the box of dead rodents he started shouting “Happy birthday!”.

We’ve been participating in a Food Share program. See all that stuff? It cost $25.

A Food Share is a charity that redistributes surplus corporate food to the community for a small donation. The food is basically being thrown out by local grocery stores, it’s old, but it’s still edible. You just have to work fast and eat or preserve it before it spoils. Preserving food is pretty easy, you can freeze it, dry it, or can it. We’ve been doing all three and I’ll show you how in future posts.

This is the second time we’ve made it to the Food Share but we’ve split a few with a friend who doesn’t always have room for a full share. Here’s what we got this time:

- 1 case of bell peppers
- 2.5 cases tomatoes
- 2.5 cases grapes
- 2 bags of bananas
- 5 bags potatoes
- 3 bags onions
- 2 bags green onions
- 4 loafs of bread
- 2 bags bagels
- 2 bags of buns
and we got some miscellaneous items including a package kale blossoms, an eggplant, 3 ears of corn, avocado, veggie tray with dip, and a single-serving raspberry danish.

The half increments were added by our friend who didn’t need his full share but as you can see, whole cases are still a lot of food! 

At the Food Share we go to it works like this: you can buy as many shares as you want, first come, first serve. Volunteers who help unload the truck and sort food get to go first. Everyone gets a number and goes through the line in order and they divide up things evenly (everyone takes the same food in the same amounts or has a choice between one thing or one other thing or gets to pick so many assorted bread items from the bread table, etc.). You take everything and if there’s something you don’t want you can leave it at a table at the end and anyone can help themself to that stuff. Then if there’s still food leftover (there always is) everyone gets the chance to go through the line again, only this time they start with the last numbers and go in reverse order. So if you aren’t at the front of the line the first time you won’t get everything, some stuff runs out, but you’ll get more if you stick around. Bulk over variety.

The program we participate in is in Poplar, Wisconsin. There’s one in Duluth but friends that have gone said it was a lot of processed junk food, whereas the one we go to specifically acquires healthy food, mostly fruits and vegetables. The only process stuff I’ve seen has been really minimal, like juice or baby food. We figure even with the gas of driving so far it’s still a great deal. The average wholesale price for a case of tomatoes is about $30, that’s for 25 lbs. We received 50 lbs. so that alone made up the fee and gas and then some. We’ll probably do two shares the next time we make it out.

We’ve been participating in a Food Share program. See all that stuff? It cost $25.

A Food Share is a charity that redistributes surplus corporate food to the community for a small donation. The food is basically being thrown out by local grocery stores, it’s old, but it’s still edible. You just have to work fast and eat or preserve it before it spoils. Preserving food is pretty easy, you can freeze it, dry it, or can it. We’ve been doing all three and I’ll show you how in future posts.

This is the second time we’ve made it to the Food Share but we’ve split a few with a friend who doesn’t always have room for a full share. Here’s what we got this time:

- 1 case of bell peppers
- 2.5 cases tomatoes
- 2.5 cases grapes
- 2 bags of bananas
- 5 bags potatoes
- 3 bags onions
- 2 bags green onions
- 4 loafs of bread
- 2 bags bagels
- 2 bags of buns
and we got some miscellaneous items including a package kale blossoms, an eggplant, 3 ears of corn, avocado, veggie tray with dip, and a single-serving raspberry danish.

The half increments were added by our friend who didn’t need his full share but as you can see, whole cases are still a lot of food!

At the Food Share we go to it works like this: you can buy as many shares as you want, first come, first serve. Volunteers who help unload the truck and sort food get to go first. Everyone gets a number and goes through the line in order and they divide up things evenly (everyone takes the same food in the same amounts or has a choice between one thing or one other thing or gets to pick so many assorted bread items from the bread table, etc.). You take everything and if there’s something you don’t want you can leave it at a table at the end and anyone can help themself to that stuff. Then if there’s still food leftover (there always is) everyone gets the chance to go through the line again, only this time they start with the last numbers and go in reverse order. So if you aren’t at the front of the line the first time you won’t get everything, some stuff runs out, but you’ll get more if you stick around. Bulk over variety.

The program we participate in is in Poplar, Wisconsin. There’s one in Duluth but friends that have gone said it was a lot of processed junk food, whereas the one we go to specifically acquires healthy food, mostly fruits and vegetables. The only process stuff I’ve seen has been really minimal, like juice or baby food. We figure even with the gas of driving so far it’s still a great deal. The average wholesale price for a case of tomatoes is about $30, that’s for 25 lbs. We received 50 lbs. so that alone made up the fee and gas and then some. We’ll probably do two shares the next time we make it out.