Elderberry everything, and an accidental FB cow sale!

The Elderberries we put in three years ago have been a great addition to the farm. Not only do they smell wonderful in June, but they have so many uses. Since some of the branches hang over very low, I use those for gathering the flowers. Once these low clusters begin to fruit they would end up on the ground with the added weight. The rest of the beautiful, flowering clusters are left to become berries. Elderflower tea has many healthy benefits, and one of my goals this year was to gather more plants for Winter time tea. My pantry now has a new section, and in it are many types of herbs I grew and also foraged for over the course of late Spring, Summer and Fall.

This was gathered and dried last June.

This is an elderberry liqueur. First I made an Elderberry Tincture, using Elderberry and Vodka, knowing some of it would be used as a tincture, and then the rest, with the addition of sugar and time, became Elderberry Liqueur. The berries were picked in August, when I made the tincture, and in October I started the Liqueur which was ready at the end of November. I will, and have, use some of these as gifts.

This is Elderberry Syrup, that can be added to sweeten tea, when a cold is coming on, and throughout the cold. It offers vitamin C, an antioxidant punch and helps to strengthen the immune system.

 

Right now I am starting to have flashbacks to the movie, Forest Gump, here. You know, the many ways to prepare shrimp, according to Bubba. Well, that aside, this is another way I use Elderberry. I keep berries in the freezer and just toss some into my kombucha for the second ferment, and I have enough frozen elderberry to last all year.

This last batch of Kombucha (2nd ferment or “2f”) turned out quite pretty.

Outside things are getting pretty quiet, but we had an interesting cow sale right after Thanksgiving.

This is Maggie and she has a new home.

We were needing to move Maggie off the farm and were were not finding a buyer for her locally. We didn’t want her Papa mating with her in the upcoming months and so we were facing no choice but to use her as beef. I posted, on a homesteading FB page, that I was wondering if we would want to do the butchering differently because of her size, and was hoping for some guidance. I thought maybe people would have different recommendations for the cut sheet since she wasn’t full grown. THEN, someone posted a comment that they would like to buy her! This person lives in Missouri, and well, there is always the concern that you don’t know them, and will they show up and follow through with the deal. Well yes they did! They were here on time, and were very kind people who were very excited to take our Maggie home with them. The loading went perfectly and they were off. It was amazing how it all worked out!

In other outdoor news, although the garden is long gone, I did get in a few last Fall tastes before it was completely over…

These are fried green tomatoes, made from the last batch of green tomatoes that came in from the garden. They were delicious!

Also with the last batch I made some salsa verde. I will definitely make this again!

The mini high tunnel is still providing us a limited, but greatly enjoyed, variety of vegetables. The picture below shows what I brought in yesterday.

Parsnips, carrots and spinach. The eggs just got into the picture since they came in, in my bucket!

This photo was about a day. A pumpkin baking – chicken broth making – kombucha bottling – bread baking day, but it was more than that. Since selling my small granola business, I am finding that there is even more joy, in cooking and processing food, now that I am not in a hurry when I cook or bake. I am able to take more time with the process. In my previous life, if you will, it was about being efficient of time, because there were so many things to do with jobs, a house and kids. Now the time I take, which in the past I would have thought to be inefficient, I see and feel differently. I am seeing a lot of things differently as I am getting older, and entering a new phase of life. I am loving having the time to feel and enjoy the processes, of everything I do. We hear a phrase often these days, that comes from the recent popular book by Marie Kondo. The phrase is, “does it give me joy?” She is referring, of course, to more tangible items, but in general, there is something so peaceful about finding what gives you joy and fills you up. Not sure when the “golden years” start but this time of life is golden already. The children are off and doing well, and we find ourselves alone together on this farm a lot. It absolutely gives us joy and I feel grateful everyday, and to be honest, I’d say many, times in a day.

Topping off the day, was an absolutely stunning sunset.

The even more amazing thing was that we had another showstopper of a sunset the next night!

His first hunt and we learned so much…

He has waffled over deer hunting for years but decided this was the year that he would go on his first hunt. He went out early in the morning and later in the afternoon the first two days, the first of which was in rain and wind and the second was pretty chilly. The third morning I heard a shot at 7am and it was close enough that I knew it was him. He came up to let me know, and despite my stubborn desire to want that first hot cup of coffee that was ready, I wanted to be there to support him and help as needed. He harvested a beautiful Buck. He worked hard to gut it, as it seems no matter how many YouTube videos you watch, it’s quite a bit different in person. It will surely be easier next time. We loaded it into the truck and brought it to our DNR station to register it, and so that they could get a sample of the deer to test it for CWD. We are unfortunately in a CWD zone. (Definition from the WI DNR shown below.) Then we hung it in the barn. This was not a young buck so we knew we wanted to let it hang for a bit. (NOTE: gloves were worn in all contacts with the animal)

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first found in Wisconsin’s wild deer in 2002. It is a 100% fatal disease that causes brain degeneration in deer, elk and moose. Like other prion diseases, CWD can have an incubation period of over a year and clinical symptoms develop slowly. There is currently no known cure.

After arming ourselves with hours of YouTube videos on butchering we were prepped for it. We were very fortunate to have our future son-in-law and our daughter helping, he has butchering experience so we were learning from him, and we all had jobs. The work went quicker than we thought it would.

We have experienced seeing our meat, we have raised in the freezer, both the pork and beef that go to the butcher and the chickens that we raise and butcher ourselves. This was different. I didn’t realize when I looked in the freezer, the reaction I would have. Harvesting wild meat from our own land. This was a big step.

Per instructions none of the meat gets consumed until the test results come back and after waiting for 9 days we found out this deer was positive for CWD. This was hugely disappointing news. All the meat had to get disposed of and the carcass was dropped at the DNR site.

I had so many different feelings over this. I felt terrible that the deer lost it’s life without getting to nourish another life, which is what should have happened. I felt like it was disrespectful to not honor this gift by using every part of it. Then I thought about how that deer would have passed the disease to other deer and that it was better for the herd. I thought about all that we learned, from gutting to hanging to butchering. We will always remember this first deer, not for the fact that it was CWD positive, but because this deer gave us the opportunity for an education. Next time, because of this buck, we will have much more knowledge about processing. It may not have turned out as we hoped it would, but it was a very important learning experience in many ways.

November and still on pasture!

It was 2012 when we brought Highland Cattle to the farm. We only had 3 at first, but as we had calves Hubby’s focus was adding new areas for them to graze and browse. Now here it is November and we still have some areas we can turn them out in, and it is exciting to not be feeding hay yet and to know the farm is able to support them better. Countless hours of work went into this fencing, and I’m happy for him to have achieved this goal! Nobody can work harder then him, anyone who knows him would agree!

This is what we laughingly call “Artisan Compost Grown Squash”! It was all volunteer and there were at least 100 of them on the hill of compost! It is feeding both us and our pigs very well this time of year! Now that we had a frost and harvested them all, Hubby went in an scooped off the whole compost pile and moved and turned it. Now the spot where the compost was is a wonderful fertile, cleaned up spot for the garlic that will go in this weekend! We did this last  year and it worked great! I am trying soft neck garlic this year in addition to the hard neck we always plant. I hear it is milder but stores better so we would likely use up the hard neck first and then move on to the soft neck.

A benefit of having a ridiculous amount of Squash is that we have an seemingly endless supply of yummy roasted Squash seeds. We did get a few pumpkins and will cook up those seeds but these Squash seeds are just as good!

The chickens too, are eating well with all the garden leftovers as I processed the last of the garden produce.

Loving the Fall goodies.

This is a new addition. Hubby built a cold smoker but this is a hot smoker. We picked it up online for $50 and it will be great for learning on, and for taking care of some of the pork we set aside for a hot smoker. We have a pork belly, and loads of ribs, It will be fun to try a new adventure, and maybe next time we will do some of our own smoking instead of having the butcher do it all. We sell meat so legally it has to be processed at the butcher, but we could take our cuts home in the future to smoke ourselves.

This is the beginning of a Wine Cap Mushroom garden. The inoculated pegs go into the dirt and then get covered with wood chips. The mushroom spawn will eventually cover the whole bed under the chips. Not sure if we will see our first mushrooms in the Summer or maybe not until Fall. This is a new type of mushroom for us to grow. We have been growing Shiitake mushrooms for years and love them. They take to drying very well, and at this point we have them year around, either fresh or dried.

This little girl is Messy Maggie. She forages and browses well, but seems to always prefer the toughest places to do this, and then she comes out covered in brush and burrs! Hoping Maggie will be finding a new home this week, we have someone thinking hard about her. She already came to look and loved her, messy and all. Fingers crossed, as we have to move her off the farm soon.

It’s exciting to me that we’ve had enough time on this journey that we are really seeing substantial strides towards growth and productivity both in us and on the farm. We’ve seen this in more pasture, increased cattle numbers, increased vegetable, fruit and mushroom production, and also I have increased my skills at many methods of food preservation. Each day we become a bit more sustaining here and each day we couldn’t be happier doing this.

Definitely Fall, finally.

I remember when starting our journey into homesteading that everything was new. Each season held a new foray into learning, and of course I continue to learn daily. What is different now is that the rhythm of it all has settled for us. The rollover from completing the last processing of food, which is upcoming in the form of squashes, and pumpkins, becomes the time to focus on covering the greenhouse for Fall and Winter. It’s definitely time to get the basement ready for starting up the wood stove, and for hubby to bring around wood, for the fire, to the back door. During the Winter it’s time to look at indoor projects, of which I have a few on my mind! Right about end of February early March it is tree tapping and seed starting time, followed by planting and well, you get it. It’s cyclical like all else. The rhythm is comforting, expected and each part is enjoyed.

The last month has been busy with harvesting, canning, drying and freezing things. After thinking I planted too late and buying some bulk tomatoes from a nearby farm, suddenly it got warm in September and in came my tomatoes with vigor!

We have loads of tomato sauce, tomato basil soup, bbq sauce, ketchup and loads of…

…roasted tomatoes!

The rest became salsa!

Anything after that became…

…tomato chips! Great for munching on or crumbling and  sprinkling on salads and other dishes.

The Goji’s came in beautifully this year. Since they are sweet juicy but always with an odd bitter aftertaste, I thought I would make a jelly that is a mix of Goji and Blueberry, the sugar changes that bitterness. Two super foods rolled into one! There is great nutrition in these red berries. I also picked my MIL’s Aronia berries. That is another incredible super food! Mine have been stunted in growth by the hungry deer around here. I have to cage them to keep the deer away, but that is another project.

The Elderberry liquor turned out quite well. I thought maybe I had a cold coming on the other day, so I indulged in this and…

…Mint tea with Pineapple weed and some Mullein also all of which were gathered this Summer. The Pineapple Weed takes a long time to collect a jar’s worth! I don’t know if I was getting a cold or not, but I felt comforted that night, and better, for whatever reason, the next day.

A recent Fall day’s collection. Love how the palette changes as the season progresses.

We tried straw bale gardening this year, on a limited basis. I didn’t do the 12 day prescribed routine on the bales quite right but we did get some potatoes, beans and carrots out of them. My carrots in soil are stunted and bent due to the soil being hard but the three larger carrots came out of the bales and they are the best and straightest carrots ever, from now on, all carrots go in bales. I will have a large carrot harvest next year, based on this finding!

The cattle are acclimating nicely to the cooler weather, they couldn’t be happier. Highlands like the cool. We have three little ones now, and the cool weather has had them running and playing together, so cute.

First really cool night, I had popcorn on my mind. Still using up the last of the popcorn our neighbors grew and gifted to us. Looking forward to many more cool nights this Winter.

Learning to Biscuit and Other Things

Like many things I try out here, often some just don’t go as planned. Currently that would include my garden full of green tomatoes which leaves me wondering if I will have a lot of pickled green tomatoes or maybe get lucky and end  up with loads of sauce. Should have planted earlier! Everything is behind, it’s also been a strange weather Summer. Everywhere.

Biscuits are another thing they don’t go like planned, for me. I’ve never been a biscuit maker, but I’ve always been a biscuit maker wanna be. Mind tend to turn out like little hockey pucks. These biscuits are the culmination of 3 previous failures. Each one was a little bit less of a fail then the time before, and this time they are cheesy, buttery and downright passable. Seems to me if the pioneers could make biscuits, on the trail, beside their covered wagons, that I should be able to make a biscuits in my kitchen, and so, I will keep working at my biscuit technique till I conquer the biscuit by making an amazing, flaky delicious biscuit!

What else is going on around the farm and in the kitchen…

This is Jewelweed.

These are Jewelweed ice cubes made from fresh Jewelweed steeped in water, then frozen into cubes for minor burns and stings.

This is chopped Jewelweed after it has infused in oil.

This is Jewelweed salve. It is good for skin irritations, poison ivy and more. It was made by adding some beeswax to the infused oil. I have been thinking about Winter gift giving and this is one of the items I will be gifting.

Here is another project I am working on for gift giving. I am hoping to make quite a few table runners by Winter gift giving time. I am also working on knitting scarves. I never got past the scarf stage of knitting, but what the heck, people need scarves right?

And back in the garden…

Our potato buckets worked well this year. Next year I would like to do a very long row of buckets. The buckets help reduce pests and to harvest the potatoes, you literally kick the bucket over and this is what you find.

Some of them were huge!!!

The grapes this year are coming in oddly. Some are ready on a bunch and some aren’t while some are dried and falling off. This meant that picking could not be by the bunch as I usually do, but picked one grape at a time. Our orchard is not a big one, so this is possible to do, but more time consuming then the other method, so it was nice that I had help this day!

These beautiful grapes went in the freezer for a future batch of Mead, which is a honey wine. Our honey on the farm isn’t quite ready so I will keep these in the freezer until we get our honey and then start a batch.

The Elderberries are producing huge clusters of berries.

These Elderberries will become Elderberry Liquor…

This year I am making a lot of Elderberry Liquor. More Winter gift giving ideas. At this point this bottle is just vodka, a bit of lemon peel and elderberries. It will eventually be strained and sugar will be added. This and time will yield a delicious Elderberry Liquor.

The kitchen has been busy. Since the tomatoes are coming in not in huge loads, just 5-10 at a time, I have been making small pots of sauce, and freezing rather than processing boxes of them at once. I sure hope eventually I will be processing a lot. Here on the stove I have a beef mushroom soup going with our shiitakes, and broth from our beef bones, a tomato basil garlic soup, all from the garden, and a pasta sauce with our ground beef, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms and onions. The stove is always working overtime this time of year.

As much as I try, our meals still in some way include some food that we didn’t grow, raise, or forage. This meal here though was collards, potatoes, and beans from our garden, and ham from our hogs with some high bush cranberry jelly on top, from last year’s high bush cranberries. Only the olive oil and was not from our farm! Score!

I am grateful every single day that I can do this, and that I can be surrounded with such beauty in my life. This basket of Elderberry, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Echinacea, Chamomile, Cherry tomatoes, Lavender, and Mint was from a short morning walk.

Beautiful.

 

Lucky calf

Our cow Jill had a calf the other day. The cows were all down in the front of the farm, and it’s a hill climb to get back up to the paddock area. Unfortunately, she crossed the stream before the calf was ready to navigate it, and he ended up in it. It is not a wide stream, more of a creek, but it’s spring fed water so he started shivering pretty quickly. It was a bit of a trick to get the baby out, because Mom was not ok with us approaching her babe, but there was a brief moment where she turned to check out the new hay and hubby climbed down in, and scooped him out of the water and heaved the baby on the bank with Mom, and when she turned around, he was back on our side of the bank. If only you could tell them that you are trying to help, darn it. He was fine once he was out of the stream, because it was a pretty nice day, so all in all we all got lucky, mostly lucky that we knew it happened. It could have happened while we were not near! The next day the calf could fairly easily navigate across the the water. Amazing that they can do that at one day old!

What was the lesson learned? We do recognize the signs that birth is coming in the next 24 hours, what we didn’t do though was check a little T and A if, you will. Now on we will check teats and butts (using a more polite word here)  twice a day. Had this been done, and we saw the signs, we would have brought them up to the paddock for the birth and away from the streams and wilder terrain.

It’s always good to recognize the lesson learned.

Here they are safe and up in the paddock area.

The gardens are on the verge of exploding. The cukes and beans have been doing this for a while but tomatoes will be soon and will keep me very busy! I don’t want to waste any of them, and I have about 15+ plants!

We have a square fenced in area for our birds in the Winter. It is covered on top with netting and it is perfect for them in the Winter. Their coop is attached to it and in the Winter their pop door leads them right to this. In the Summer they use the back door and range, so the fenced in area becomes a perfect garden till about October when they will need it back. This set up leaves me with three 8 foot walls to raise beans on in the Summer. The beans plants are producing beans like crazy. I’ve already frozen about 30 dinners worth of beans for 2 people, and the blanching continues:)

Love these Dragon Tongue beans! They are, believe it or not, incredibly juicy! They are super refreshing to snack on while picking in the sun.

Blanch, freeze, repeat. These are ready to be bagged for the freezer.

Found a new vinegar pickle recipe that I LOVE. Last year I did mostly fermented pickles, but I’ve come full circle and see the virtues of both kinds. These are nice and spicy!!

Hubby found another Chicken of the Woods Mushroom. At top left is the full mushroom he picked, bottom left shows them dried for later use, and on the right they are ready to store in the pantry.

This is a Curtido. A spicy El Salvadorian style fermented kraut. Such a nice way to change up kraut. It’s delicious!

Fermenting to me is a feast for every sense. It’s beautiful to look at, it tastes great, it smells delicious, and occasionally not so much during some particular stages of kraut fermentation, lol. The vegetables are beautiful to the touch with many textures, and finally, the satisfying bubbling noise that I hear, that tells me the ferment is doing it’s thing. All this, and it’s so good for the gut, I know I am doing something good for my body when I eat them.

 

A pretty post, as a tribute to Mama, it’s been one year.

It’s been one year since Mom has been gone. She would have loved these pictures, she loved hearing about my garden and what was going on in my busy kitchen. She shared stories, over the years, of her Grandmother making Sauerkraut and Watermelon Pickles. Today, I made Sauerkraut and darn it, I just wish she was on the stool at the counter, with coffee in hand, talking to me while I prepared it.

So today, no descriptions, this post is just pictures.

Pictures Mom would have loved.

Oh what I would give for one more cup of coffee with her…

Love you dear Mama.