Cleaning Clay

I’ve have always wanted to take clay from the ground, clean it and make a bowl or something out of it. Years ago I did bring home a 5 gallon bucket full that I had dug while dad was working in the field. He put it in the truck and hauled it home for me and there it sat. I didn’t get the rest of the materials rounded up to actually do the project. Well, history does repeat it self because I have a large soup pot of clay that I dug out of the sump pump hole in the basement. This time however, I’m pretty sure I have all the pieces to finish the project.

The problem the first time around was the directions I had to clean the clay required screens and more buckets and a list of things that even if I could have rounded them up I’m pretty sure dad would have been less than thrilled to find me coating them with mud and clay.

This time however I have figured out that clay is lighter than the sand, rocks and other bits of stuff that need to get cleaned out of it. I didn’t take “during” pictures because me, a camera, mud and a hose, well lets just say something was bound to go wrong.

Step one:
Fill the bucket of clay with water. With your hands get everything moving. Smash the chunks with your fingers and stir everything up really good. By this time the water will be very cloudy and your arm will be coated with dirty water.

Step two:
Let the bucket of water sit for a few minutes. This will allow the heavier particles to sink while the clay particles stay suspended in the water.

Step three:
Pour the clay water into another bucket leaving the particles that settled on the bottom in the bucket. Rise out the unwanted chunks.

Repeat steps one thru three until there is next to nothing settling on the bottom of the bucket. Depending on how dirty the clay is this could take three to six times.

Once your sure you have gotten all the sand out let the clay water sit for a couple days. The water will turn clear and you will see the clay on the bottom. Pour out the water and allow the clay to dry until it is a workable consistency. The drying time will vary considerably depending on the heat and humidity where the clay is being kept.

Viola, ready to use clay!

Next up, Using your clay.

Even Little Cows Can Jump High

wildflowerfarm.orgAs I said previously, I have never halter broke a cow and aside from the advice of a few friends and family and the bit of reading I’ve done, I really don’t know what I’m doing. That being said I do think I am making some good progress.

Both the girls are fine with me scratching them, nose to tail and their front legs while they eat their treat of grains. Since the beginning I have brought one of the rope halters with me when I go into the pasture to work with them. This way they are used to seeing it, when they are eating it swings by them and they can smell it if they like. My thought is that it will lessen the chances that they get spooked by it. Even little cows can jump high.

Last week I started putting the rope on them, just laying it behind their ears, letting the end hang much closer to their face while they eat and just kinda pestering them with it. This week I’ve been going one step further; while the rope is behind their ears and in their face I have begun to rub their nose, under their chin and their cheeks, pretty much where that actual halter will go. The thought again is that they will get used to me handling their face and the rope at the same time.

Surprisingly, it’s going very well. If we keep progressing like this, I plan to put the halter on them this Sunday. They will be tied to a gate post; it should work well. I am assuming they are going to be rather unhappy at first having them tied there will mean they aren’t running loose about the pasture with the halter rope dragging, possibly sending them through the fence. They are also going to be in a spot without electric or barbed wire to prevent those injuries.

Last night it felt like a cool fall night with spring rain/mist not the greatest weather. I decided the cows needed more pasture and last night was the night to do it. Our beautiful wood post fence line isn’t quite done with. We had such an amazing crop of alfalfa that we decided to get a couple hayings off it before we put the barbed wire up. They had eaten pretty much everything in the space they had and were belloring at me when I would do the chicken chores.

I moved the girls into the corral and we removed a good portion of the old fence. The neighbor was out on his tractor with his brush mower and offered to mow a path for the new fence line. After that was done it was pound a few posts restring the wire and add some.Then release the cows. This is how I know even little cows can jump high.

The girls really haven’t had me worried until last night. Usually when I have a bucket of grain for them they coming running, literally. Last night I had no grain for them and when I opened the gate out they came, running, bucking and all out jumping after me. I know cows have a great view range but their sight really isn’t that great. I made sure we removed the old posts so they didn’t think the fence was still up but there was still a definite line of tall grass the used to be on the other side. So in all my helpfulness I calmly lead them out to the new pasture, jumping and bucking the whole way and yet staying behind me. That was the kinds scary part, they were making all this ruckus and making sure they didn’t go ahead of me.

It all worked out. They chowed down on the new salad bar. Mike brought the extra posts to the barn, the boy and I brought the rest of the fencing pieces. By the time we got in it was time for a warm bath for the little boy and the usual late supper for us. I can’t wait for the day that we have family supper at 6 regularly again.

It was a good day working with the cows and they went to bed happy too.

My Favorite Quinoa Recipe

For those unfamiliar with quinoa (keen-wah) it is an ancient grain a little bigger than a mustard seed.  The plant looks like amaranth, another ancient grain. The seeds or grain must be harvested by hand. It has been getting a lot of press about the health benefits it has lately. For how much I like grains I thought I should give this one a try too.

I have had some very well prepared quinoa in burgers and salads in restaurants and at a potluck or two. How hard can it be? I work with a wide variety grains daily and have for years.

My research about this grain said it is best soaked and well rinsed or it can be bitter tasting. I heeded the warning, even though I don’t mind some bitter flavor. The recipes I had, I followed to a “T”.

The breakfast quinoa with dried cranberries and walnuts I thought would be great! I love oatmeal prepared like that.

Bitter and not good.

The quinoa bulgur salad. Yum I thought, I like salads with bulgur and barley why not quinoa?!

Bitter and not good.

Add it to a veggie bean burger I thought.

Bitter and ruined the rest of the burger.

I even tried different kinds of quinoa. After all this I was about to give up and then I came up with the perfect recipe!

Chicken Feed.

I put it in with the chicken feed. The meat will not taste bitter, nor the eggs. I will not feel as though I have wasted what is said to be such a wonderful grain! Problem solved!

And with that I don’t plan to try my hand at this grain again for a long while.