Beautiful food!

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I’ve never grown romaine, but as you can see I am protecting it well. Those little 13 line ground squirrels (I was corrected by a wise man, they are not Chipmunks) are aiming to take out my garden, well take that you little thieves. I worked with my daughter to make a bunch of these cages out of hardware cloth. Hubby made some too. It will be great for next year to have all of them ready to go. It really saved my little plants. Now they are so big I have removed almost all except for those that house the small and vulnerable.

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The first flush of Shiitakes was wonderful. We ate them in eggs, and with asparagus and garlic scapes for days, and then we decided to preserve the bounty and dry a bunch for Winter. They turned out wonderful. I now have dried Shiitakes, dried Morels, and dried young Pheasant Backs. We will have mushrooms all Winter, especially since we will get a few more flushes of Shiitakes yet this year.

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The snow peas I grew in the mini high tunnel have started to come in with a good handful every other day. Should be more than that soon. Our high tunnel has a plan as I have mentioned before. I had it on the bale wall and started early Spring things like radishes, lettuces, spinach etc., last February. I also started some Peas and Beans early and that was an experiment. It turned out pretty well except I accidentally put pole beans in there and of course they climbed all over the tunnel. I had to pull them out so we could take the tunnel off and ready it for the Chickens that are all too ready to get in it, and be outside.  After they are butchered in August it will go back on over my July starts for cold crops. This should keep growing food till early November or longer if things don’t get crazy cold in November like they did last year. Come February I will plant it again for early Spring veggies. So it is a multi-purpose unit and I love that. Every time we build something with two purposes, it seems to get double the value for the money spent on it and the time hubby invests in building it!

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Here is the tunnel before we took it off the bale wall. It was sad pulling all the green bean vines off it. Hubby put in some fence for them to climb on should they decide to try and survive the trauma of being pulled off the tunnel. When it is a chicken tractor we have a shade tarp on it, so that will be going on soon. We also have a coop that pulls up to the the window you see and they can take the plank up through the window to get to the mobile coop. This year we are trying new things. We will try our first real free range birds! I hear about people doing it all the time and occasionally they lose a bird. Since they will have a run with an attached coop available, I think it is the best scenario to try it. When ours have gotten out for a minute they look so nice enjoying the whole yard. I will however only do this with 8 roos! The new hens will head to the winter coop and the current hens will be in our older chicken tractor. The rest of the 42 birds will be split between two chicken tractors that hubby is working feverishly on right now. Somehow time got away from him and they birds are big and screaming to get out of the brooder and get on grass. They should be out there by Monday. This also is new, we will run them up and down in an area considerably removed from the house. They need to be really secure up there, so he is making a maximum security roosting area at night. I drooled today over an automatic chicken door that opens and closes based on longitude and latitude which determines sunrise/sunset. I never thought I would drool over such a thing! It will be tough getting up the hill at 6 am each morning, but I suspect I will see some wonderful sunrises which might even turn around my grumpy state at that hour. Fortunately it will only be for 5 weeks. Admittedly, 5 kind of long weeks.

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This was one of my “catch ‘o the day” pictures. The eggs of course were cooked in bacon grease, so everything we ate was from the farm that night.

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This is the run around the winter coop. The laying hens are in there now eating down some peas and weeds! The coop will get cleaned up for our new hens to move into this weekend. These ladies will go in the older tractor with attached coop. All said, we will have two new chicken tractors with 21 birds in each, and one older chicken tractor with our current 6 laying hens, and 8 free ranging birds that will be in a coop at night and 8 new hens in the winter coop and run. There is a whole lot going on in Chickenland here. Next year with not having to build new tractors it will be an easier year! Each thing we add to the infrastructure around here, makes the next year a little easier. Even our brooder this year is one that can come apart and get put back together next year. I think Hubby is even on board with putting doors on the long barn so that we can have the brooder, and all it’s dust, in the barn and not the garage next year! Now that will be a real treat!

As it gets late in June the weeds are in full and the new plantings are still small, so I have been doing my best to keep up. So far I have been keeping up fairly well. I don’t have the best weeding back, but if I do bits of it here and there I can keep up. It’s a fine line of knowing when not to push myself and knowing when I need to push myself. So far, it’s working and my gardens are actually less weedy than ever!

Tonight I gathered together the things I made for my friend for her birthday. A scarf I finished but not in time for last year when it was cold at holiday time, some oregano I dried, sliced dried garlic scapes, and some dried raspberry leaves for tea. It was a fun present to put together.

I am hoping it isn’t this long between posts again. It’s a bummer that between my business, the farm and family commitments it has been weeks since I have posted. It’s a bummer for more reasons then just missing out on things that I wish I had captured on here over the last few weeks. It’s a major bummer because I love this blog and the time, pictures and thought that I have put into it. I love the chronology of where our journey started and our path along the way. So I don’t want to fall into the busy trap. I think busy is not a state, as we often imply,  it has a causative agent, and that is over planning and time management issues due to over planning, this only leaves me feeling stressed from busy and a failure at the same time because I didn’t get everything done that I imposed on myself. So, I am ready to pay attention to that word “busy” again, because it takes away from me, when it becomes a state of being. I was doing quite well at this and paying attention to it, and since Spring hit I fell in the trap again.

Now, to start up some yogurt, and clean up from a wonderful completely farm dinner of baked chicken, last year’s corn and broccoli, and raspberry applesauce. I am still working on finishing last year’s supplies!

May News

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You might ask why 58 chicks?

Well, 50 roos would provide us more than enough chicken for the year, with plenty to barter with as well, and we wanted to have 8 new hens to take over for our current hens when they slow down.

We made a tough decision a couple of weeks ago. We will not be raising pigs this year. Last year we raised pigs and had pork all year, and with the 25 chickens we processed we were set. We decided that last year was a pork and chicken year and this year will be a beef and chicken year. We have a lot going on this year on the farm. It looks like we may have a couple of calves coming soon. By the way, I am not in charge of breeding here, and hubby’s method of breeding is what (I tease him and) call the “baby maybe” breeding plan (reference here to a great George Carlin line). Our bull just hangs with the ladies year round so we can absolutely expect that we never know when we are expecting. We will be processing said bull this summer, and one of our steers, so we will have lots of beef. We will be getting our freezer licensed (as soon as we get the chicks out of the garage where the freezer is, lol). So with all the chicks, and so much beef and the possibility of calves and the fact that we doubled our garden space, we decided to let the pig idea rest for a year. When November comes around we will trade chickens for pork and that will work perfectly.

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When we were building the house and it was just walls and sub floor, I remember standing at this window, which had no window in it yet, and saying this will be my “doing dishes view”. As I did dishes the other night I totally enjoyed watching the cattle work the hillside. How could doing dishes be bad with this view?

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Looks can be deceiving. This bread looks delicious right? Wrong. I won’t be making this recipe again. It was completely boring. I will go back to my go to no knead bread. The only problem with the no knead recipe is that if you don’t do your math right, it will be ready to go in the oven at 3am!

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The mushrooms keep happening! They are awesome. I hear, from my mushroom ID facebook group that the Chicken of the Woods are coming out in areas near us, so I better get out to the woods and check before I miss anything! These Pheasant backs were good sauteed but only the edges, these ones were so big they rest of them were better for making mushroom broth.

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Speaking of the hunt! These are day lily stalks, and they were delicious! Between the mushrooms, the day lily stalks, and all the lambs quarter I have been cooking it’s quickly becoming a free grocery store out there. Definitely a great way to shop!

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Time to plug the Shiitake logs. Last year’s logs have been giving a few flushes of mushrooms which have been great with all the asparagus we’ve been eating.  They are my version of going together like peas and carrots.

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The cattle have been loving the grass and the long summer like nights. I keep counting them, wondering if one day I will go out and there will be 10 instead of 9. Like I said, baby maybe? The cattle are finally up in the woods grazing too these days and so they have earned their first of three purposes, according to my farming rules of livestock each animal has to earn their place on the farm in three ways. So far the cattle have cost money with no real return. Now they are working the woods and cleaning them up which was why we got them originally. It just took a long time to get all that amount of fencing done. My three things I want the cattle to do include feeding us, cleaning up the woods, and to earn cash if we ever sell calves or one of our other cows.

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Last weekend we took a bit of time off to fish. Didn’t catch many but it didn’t much matter. I love rowboats.

Lots of Mushroom Porn

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Drying Morels for next year:)

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A surprise flush of mushrooms from last year’s logs!

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Magical Spring food!

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This equals…

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THIS! The Pea Shoots are from the little kitchen sprouter.

What else has been going on, on the farm? Well it is getting ready time… Get the gardens ready, get the chicken tractors ready, get the pig yard ready, and get the brooder ready, birds come on Monday, all 58 of them! I asked hubby at one point, should I call and change the order to 30 roos, and 8 hens, instead of 50 roos and 8 hens, and he said, why not keep the order as is, what’s the difference between 38 and 58? Well we will see, thankfully the roos are all gone by the beginning of August! We have also gotten some things checked off the list, the Grapes look a lot better than they did after the Winter mess, and we did get all the bare root stock in and the rain has cooperated with watering which eliminates a lot of hose dragging!

In other news…

I got out a couple days after the season opener of Trout fishing season. It was a brief trip, but my goal this summer is to just keep my pole in the car, with the trout regulation book and my tall rubber boots, this way I can stop at some of the many streams I pass all the time. It’s a great time of year on the streams because the weeds are nice and low, by July they weeds will be over my head!

My business, really granola, has gone through some major changes, and although the granola is the same, I am adjusting to this new normal, as my job has changed. I am officially working with an amazing co-packing kitchen, and we have worked hard at getting them to be able to put out granola that is just the same as before when I was baking it. They are still making it in small batches but it is not me baking it anymore. I have retired my baking hat and put on my sales hat. Currently I have a whole heck of a lot of granola to sell, so I will be looking to add lots more stores, cafes and restaurants to my list of customers. This change is all part of the evolution that has occurred since I started the business. When I first started, I was still teaching daily and baking on the weekends, it then progressed to leaving the teaching job and baking in a rental kitchen, but still doing every aspect of the production myself. Now with the change over to a co-packing kitchen, it will change life quite a bit.

I am hoping it gets to a rhythm eventually where I can find a balance between the business and what we are doing on the farm. I consider what I do here to be a big part of our financial picture. The granola business is part of the picture, not buying food at the store is another part of the picture, and selling meat and eggs is a third part of the picture. While the granola business is just starting into a new phase and will first eat money before it makes money, all I can do is look toward the future positively and know that what I am doing here, will soon pair with the granola business and these things I consider to be my contribution to our little economy here. It is really exciting to see all this coming together. Now little business, please prove me right!!!

This was my latest little project. Our garden has a lot of competition from critters, these cages I made are designed to give the little tender plantings a chance against these critters. They will get removed when the plants start to outgrow them, and then they are on their own. I wish the garden was fenced, but with all the fencing a certain someone has had to do for cattle, pigs and chickens, I am not going to be asking for a fence around the garden anytime soon. So, critters, game on! I am hoping these cages help save some small lives, and I mean the plants, not the critters.

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Still working on getting the garden beds ready. Rows 1 and 2 (starting at left), still need a lot of work. We have some fresh compost dumped at the front end, and after I put down a barrier layer on top of those two long rows we will spread the compost and add lots more compost on top. The row on the right is ready to go. We always had grass between the three rows, but I am taking over the grass areas with some lasagna style garden beds to add more space. Yesterday I got the first row planted, and the two little beds in between planted as well. Now to finish preparing the two other long beds as well as the in between rows. Lots of work ahead.

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The tiny high tunnel is producing lots of delicious lettuce, Spinach and radishes. Ironically some of the things I planted did not grow, but what grew in it’s place was Lamb’s Quarter, and I am going to leave it there. It’s as good as Spinach and has more vitamins than Spinach. While it looks a little untidy growing in my carefully planted tunnel, it will be delicious, and I will keep this little gift in there.

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Then this happened. A great Sunday morning brunch at a fantastic casual farm to table restaurant with great music provided from my wonderful farmer neighbor and his friends. Nothing like a little Sunday morning sing-a-long with friends, to the tunes of Willie Nelson, Old Crow Medicine show, John Prine and more. A room full of happy people kicking back and taking a break from weekend chores. I did not see one person there that seemed “stressed” or “too busy”, or looking at their phones, they were just mindful of the moment and enjoying it all. Just one of the many, many reasons I love living here.

Spring on the farm…

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So pretty!

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Hello Rhubarb. Umm this reminds me I still have a lot of rhubarb in the freezer. Thinking I should make up some Rhubarb Raspberry jam with some of the frozen fruit I still have, before this year’s is ready to pick! I am still poking and peeking for Asparagus but nothing yet. I did see that the garlic has shown up and is peeking out of the heavy Winter mulch.

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THE CATTLE ARE ON GRASS!!!!!!!

It is so nice to see Spring popping out everywhere we turn. This week has been absolutely gorgeous, but per usual, next week is predicted to be cold in the 50’s and rather damp all week, all typical for this time of year, even expecting 32 degrees next Tuesday night, meaning, I am glad I resisted the urge to plant in the last couple of warmer weeks.

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The mini high tunnel has radishes, lettuces, beans, spinach, peas, and chard. All are growing well. When it gets warm enough that the danger of frost is gone, we will pick up the greenhouse and take it off the bales, and the little early garden will provide us with great produce while the big garden is only getting going. The meat birds and new hens arrive on May 11 and so by mid to late June I can get them in the tunnel and move them around.

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We are still working down our freezer food. Although this corn looks picture perfect, I won’t freeze on the cob again. I did most of last year’s corn cut off in bags, and then some on the cob just because I thought it would be a treat mid winter, but the texture was softer than we like so I cut it off and cooked it in a pan with other veggies and let the corn caramelize a bit, it turned out ok, and i gave the cobs to the chickens, who were thrilled with them. I may share some of this corn on the cob with them for treats, we still have frozen bags of corn, so sharing seems only fair!

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This is last year’s cabbage, I have one left in storage. The outsides don’t look so good, but after peeling off a few layers they are perfectly good. I also used storage carrots and celeriac and lots of our garlic in this kimchi, which by the way turned out delicious AND colorful!

I’ve been trying my hand at foraging which turns out to be good exercise as well! My daughter and I are doing a Fitbit challenge and foraging is really helping. I am not the best forager and so I am armed with a hybrid foraging method, which means my smart phone with foraging aps, which are my friend on these jaunts. There are also some great FB pages where nice people who know a lot about foraging will help ID your photos, which really helps!

Today the bare root stock came, so those will go in this weekend, and the Shiitake mushroom plugs came as well, so that will be on the agenda too. I want to combine the two chest freezers into one freezer so that I can prepare for my licensing of the freezer for selling our upcoming beef! We are really looking forward to having beef. We are getting down to about our last third of the hog from last year, still have plenty of chickens, but they should be gone by August when we process our meat birds. I am hoping to  also do some setting up of the garden this weekend if the weather stays nice. Not planting, but cleaning things up and getting it ready. If it is a cold wet weekend, then what? I will cook:)

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A Spring Birthday and a Fall Gift

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This is an awesome gift from Hubby. It was my birthday in late March and a very large box was delivered that day. We have endless amounts of apple trees, almost all of them are neglected old trees from farms years ago, but they still have good apples and they all taste different, and have different textures. I’ve always thought they would make an excellent cider! We are both very excited to use this. I need to look at fruit grinders, but otherwise we are set to go! It was a perfect gift for me!

Since my birthday (the first day of Spring) we have been in the 70’s, gotten 15 inches of snow and…

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… then an ice storm. Today it is in the 40’s and all the snow now is gone.

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It’s been great weather for the chickens, they are so excited to come out in the morning, unlike before when one would poke it’s head out the door look around and cluck to the others to not bother, that it was still Tundra-land.

This weekend I am going to try and prune these sad, sad grapes. Seems there are always more important projects and since setting posts isn’t something I do well, getting the grapes set up properly just hasn’t happened yet. At least I can prune them a lot, and then hopefully hubby can get the posts in before too long.

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I’m hoping a couple reference books and a few you tube videos later I should know how to do this. This weekend will be a good time for a Spring coop cleaning as well. Also on the docket for the weekend is to regroup the two freezers outside and combine them into one freezer so we can turn one off. Soon it will get licensed for our early Summer beef, and Fall pork. As I look through the freezer I realize that at this point it is less organized after a Winter of grabbing this and that. I noticed a huge sack of bags of frozen broccoli I didn’t realize were there and that made me think it was time to review it all, tighten up the organization of it and figure out how to have it last till June when veggies come in, but not have lots of left in June. This is tightrope, I hope to get better at it. I believe there is Broccoli Cheddar Soup in our future:)

Spring planning has gone amazingly well seeing how I wasn’t even sure I would be able to get to it at all because of all the family things that had gone on in late Winter. In addition to family issues, my business, was and still is, going through changes. I have spent a considerable amount of time planning for and preparing to test out a co-packer to bake my product, which will allow my business to grow, and this would be super exciting! Somehow even with all this going on, I did get through Spring planning! I have my seeds, the bare root stock will arrive when ready, the mini high tunnel is planted, and  the chickens have been ordered, and our piglets we hear have been born. All went well and so far it seems we will get the four we requested. I even collected a pint of Black Walnut Syrup. All in all a very successful Spring plan was achieved even with some challenges.

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Nice to see the snow gone, (hopefully for good), the last few days have been beautiful.

…his name should have been Pooh Bear

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This was just before the snow storm, one of the first nice Spring like days, and someone got a little over excited about getting the hay in the middle of the feeder and got stock, not unlike Winnie the Pooh. Hubby had to take apart the feeder while I chatted with the wedged over eater. He didn’t seem too disturbed by the process, he just kept eating.

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The other night we sat down to dinner and I just had to take a picture of these beans from last summer. Still beautiful, still delicious and still plentiful in the freezer. I believe we will make it to be bean season ever being without! I do need to sort through the freezer, though, and tidy it up to make sure I know how much of everything we have. It’s a fine line to have enough till fresh veggies come in, but not too much when fresh veggies come in… It will be interesting to see how it balances out.

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And here are next season’s beans in this box!

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This here was an accomplishment! I am hoping, like last year, to knit a scarf for many at holiday time. Last year when I tried for this goal  I had never knit anything before, and well, yes, I thought it would go quicker. I did get two projects done but that was all. My goal this year is to be prepared with many knitted gifts. The good news is that I had started quite a few for different recipients and so I have a start on several of them. This one, though, is for my friend’s birthday. I accidentally finished it incorrectly, but it doesn’t matter. I am excited to give it to her. I really like the material. When I first started knitting, I found that buying yarn at a mega craft store offered many choices and I have a few very pretty scarves going that use some nice looking yarns from that store, but I found that I wished there was also a story behind the yarn, rather than a factory. I looked around on Craigslist and it was great luck to have find a very nice woman selling wool! This scarf is made from that wool, which I bought from her over a year ago. She raised the sheep that this wool came from. She showed me knitted sweaters and socks she had made while she told me about the new life she was starting in Mexico, which was why she couldn’t keep it all. She was sorry to part with so much of her wool and also some wool she had from her friend’s sheep, but she was glad it was going home with me, she knew it was appreciated. Hopefully she is enjoying her new start in Mexico, I am enjoying my start at knitting and using her wool that came with a story attached to it.

Some of this and a lot of that!

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First we did this… Hubby was pleased to find a window of nice weather in mid March to get some early burning done, and I got the mini High Tunnel planted.

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Then Midwest weather happened…

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Back to making fires in the morning, and rearranging schedules due to not being able to get out of the driveway.

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Of course that returned us back to soup and bread, but when isn’t soup and bread good? This was a pork based broth from roasted neck bones, I browned slices of our Italian brats and added that and lots of beans and vegetables, so it was a spicy bean and sausage soup. I had no idea what it would be till it was done, but it turned out great!

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I am happy to have re-found a sandwich bread recipe that I like, because sometimes I tire of my go to, no knead bread even though it is delicious. This bread sliced up really nicely and I made it into two slightly smaller loaves so one is sliced and in the freezer, ready to go for a busier day. It’s nice to have a back up loaf

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Despite the snow Hubby did get me into the property where my granola kitchen is located, but without his 4 wheel drive and determination it wouldn’t have happened. He also sees snow vs. truck as a personal challenge (insert winky face here).

On the farm news:

I got the mushroom spawn ordered and all bare root stock has been ordered. This year 2 dwarf Plum trees, 6 Somerset Red Seedless Grapes, 2 Elderberry, 1 Goji Berry, 3 High Bush Cranberry, and 2 Red Currants. My hope is to turn the area around our house into food, wherever I can, by adding each year. Fruit is something that we have the least diversity of here, and this would really improve that. Currently our wild fruit on the farm are limited to, apple trees, black cap berries, and a few Mulberries, and possibly still some gooseberries to nibble in the woods, but that is a complete stretch. We do have fruits that we have planted such as a small amount of raspberries, some grapes which so far is just enough for a couple of weeks of table grapes in the summer, and some trees that we planted such as; 1 pear, several apples, and 1 sour cherry. Last year I traded for melons, but hoping this year I will do well with Watermelons and Cantaloupe. Turns out they are both amazing dried, but more so the Watermelon which could be marketed as natural candy:)

Hubby would prefer farming not so close to the house, but I really like it this way. The predators are less likely to come up on the lawn near the house, which makes vulnerable berries and such, safer and I like to be able to see all the animals when I go out and have the garden close by. Our food is knitted into our everyday life, and without getting too warm and fuzzy, it makes me feel just a little bit closer to the way people lived a long time ago…right here.