Day 2 – My Solo Farm Week

Today I spent a good amount of time picking in the garden and got to a lot of processing of veggies. I froze flat beans, and regular beans, about 18 bags total. The beans have been prolific and beautiful! I froze them in 2 person servings. That works well for us. I’ve definitely improved my blanching techniques. I don’t blanch as long as I used to and then once the veggies come out of the ice water bath (post blanching), I put them all on thick terry towel which absorbs the water nicely so they don’t all freeze in an iceberg! It’s been working great.

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So far, I have gotten a good start on my freezing. I have broccoli, beans, blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, kale, collards, chard, and beet greens already put away. I haven’t canned much other then rhubarb-strawberry jam I made early in the season with last year’s frozen fruit, and Dilly Beans this year.

I want to can things this year that make easy side dishes with a quick meal, such as; Three Bean Salad, Corn Relish, Pickled Beets, Sauerkraut (never made this before) and then other things such as Salsa, BBQ Sauce and Ketchup.

Tomorrow I will be making Peach Jam. My MIL gifted me a good amount of peaches and since I generally get a case of peaches from up north in the state later in the season for cutting into pieces and freezing for winter fruit, I thought I would Jam these.

Other things that happened today…

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Drying Dill.

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Refrigerator Dills, with farmer’s market Cukes. Next year they will be my cukes, but always nice to support a local farmer.

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Watermelon Candy!

Finally it was almost dark, and time to move the coops, and uh oh, the big coop just wouldn’t pull. I knew hubby just wouldn’t give up, so I kept backing up the four wheeler and then pulling forward at a slightly different angle. After about the 4th time, it worked! I was able to pull it forward, close up the rest of the birds in the other three coops and do my victory lap:)

7 days, 7 posts; my solo farm week – day 1

Hubby is off on his “mancation” with is two brothers, and I am holding the fort down for a week. We aren’t apart much and we both enjoy our vacations, he in his kayak and mine being more of a “staycation”. I spent the week getting lots of granola sold, and making deliveries, figuring out inventory and placing orders for the next big baking session over at the kitchen. My goal was to leave myself with a light work week and let it be more of a farm week. It’s perfect timing to have a farm week too, because I have a loads of beans, beets, greens, cabbage, etc ready and tomatoes are getting ready to explode, but are still probably a week away. They are quite late this year.

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I felt lucky to find this many the other day. I’ve been loving all the veggies from the garden…

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…not only because they are delicious but because they are beautiful too! Examples below…

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I can’t help but insert photos such as these, because they amaze me. My kids tease me, all the time, because when we fly somewhere far away, I predictably go to bed saying, I can’t believe we were at home this morning! I am that way with seeds too. I put various tiny seeds in the ground and each one knows what to become and then proceeds to produce pounds and pounds and pounds of food, and it amazes me, not to mention the beauty, check out those beets! This is just an iphone photo, imagine if I was using my real camera! Which by the way, I am breaking out this week to have a bit of fun! It’s on my staycation list!

Other things on my list for this week include; getting the fall garden in, canning, freezing and eating lots of veggies, knitting, working on my hunter safety class, working on a secret new really granola product, getting the garage and freezer ready for licensing, so we can process our first beef, shooting some targets with my pellet gun, and looking through my new Foxfire books, that I was so lucky to be gifted and maybe even a bit of fishing at a local stream. This is a just a partial list :-)

This past week, I have been trying to keep up with the beans. I made Dilly beans and canned them. Tomorrow I will be freezing about 7 pounds of beans, that are in the fridge and picking more beans when I am done. I think I will do another batch of Dilly beans with the beans I pick tomorrow. This is the first year I have grown enough beans for us for the year. In the past I have bartered for a quantity or purchased from a local farmer. It feels good to have calculated properly this year.

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I may have calculated well on greens too. I’ve got a lot I’ve put in the freezer already this year. The back tray is Kale, and the front tray has chard, beet greens and Collards. This all got blanched and frozen.

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These are Zucchini ready to go into the dehydrator. They will hydrate easily and can be added to soups and other dishes.

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A new batch of kimchi. I can’t seem to get enough of it. This batch turned a nice pink color from the purple cabbage. So delicious!

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Collecting eggs at night is not really the norm, but it was when I got to them that day.

Tonight was night one of the job I was trained in on, and that is moving the coops at night. We have two that need moving. I use the four wheeler to pull them. One is quite large and the other is a bit more manageable, but I got them both done successfully! Since, I don’t really like doing stuff in the dark, I went up there early tonight and just waited for the birds to go in, this way I have the most light possible to get this done. These birds are less then 2 weeks from the freezer and they are really growing nicely. I think we may have 4 pound birds instead of 3 pound birds this year. I was given some advice to keep them on starter feed, and not switch to grower, this gives them more calories and that helps with growth a bit but not like the fast raising birds that take 8 weeks to table. That isn’t what we are doing here.

This was last night’s view after I moved the coops. Being up in the field each night at about 9pm is also perfect timing for light shows such as this!

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Day 1 went well.

Summertime

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Things couldn’t look more Summery these days! I found these mulberries while out today. Although Hubby and I have differing opinions on Mulberry trees. I see them as food and want to keep them, and he’d rather get rid of them.  Blah, blah weed trees etc. We compromised. I picked an area that is on a fence line that has Mulberries, Wild Grapes, some Gooseberries and Black Cap Berries and I claimed it. He can take others out but my little fruit buffet stays!

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These are Black Cap Berries, and this bright red says that I better prepare because they all look like they will turn that nice black purple all at the same time. I’d like to make a full canner of Black Cap Jam. It is delicious. It has all kinds of little tiny crunchy seeds in it, but we love it, the flavor is rich and the color is beautiful!

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The chicks are OUT of the garage! This was huge. We now have them in 4 separate coops that Hubby built. This one is permanent, (not a mobile tractor type) and we call it our Winter coop. We have 8 new hens in it. The future layers get the best digs! Then we have 3 mobile units that Hubby did an amazing job on. Between the four units we could be a Chicken Tractor Museum, because each one is unique. He used lots of stuff we already had too!

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This one was a huge job for him, more than he thought it would be, but it turned out great. It is light weight enough that the four wheeler can move it, but the Coop part gives it substance and weight against the winds. We have about 35 Roos in there and it gets moved on to fresh grass daily.

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These are our current layers. They are just starting to go through their molt, so the eggs are down a bit. This coop also gets moved onto fresh grass daily.

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This we call the Hoop and Coop. It houses 10 Roos and we are free ranging them. We have never done this. We open their door and leave it open all day and they go in and out, and unlike children, they go to bed without being told:) We are pleased with how well it is working, and yes we realize we could lose birds this way. We will assess the success of operation free rangers at the end of the season.

They coops are spread out and so I am trying to get used to using the four wheeler to distribute water and food amongst the four locations but I always have trouble starting it, of course, then Hubby gets on it and it starts right up. Grrr, I have to work on this because when he goes on his annual “Mancation” with his brothers I will be on my own! So, MUST learn how to get comfortable with the thing, so far, I have a 50-50 success rate, higher once it’s been run and lesser when it’s starting for the first time of the day.

The Garden

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This was the garden a week ago, at this point it already looks a lot different, things have grown so much!

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Zucchini

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Basil

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Collards

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Beets

I am very excited about this garden. It is definitely the biggest and most productive garden I have had. I am also doing a better job of planting new things continuously. My daughter did a second planting of radishes a few weeks ago and I just planted the third round yesterday in an area where there were storm damaged snap peas. The peas went to the chickens to be finished off. I am starting to think about what and when I want to plant in the garden that has the frame for the high tunnel to sit on, as that will be our Fall veggies such as various greens and radishes. I tucked two tomato plants into this area as well, thinking that possibly with the tunnel over them, that they might fruit longer, but it’s experimental at best.

A conversation at the top of our small part of the world.

On the 4th of July we headed up to the top of the field (our high point view) and brought a couple chairs. We were able to see about 5 different communities Firework shows, but not a lot of them. I mean literally not a lot of them. We could see the very top edge of the colorful displays, the rest were obscured by hills. While we scanned the Horizon in different directions we talked about the farm a bit. We actually took time to recognize what’s changed around here. Chickens: We now have 4 chicken coops (3 of which are mobile), and a permanant brooder that can be taken apart and stored. Setting up next year will be soooo easy! In the Cattle area we have way more fenced pasture than ever! Last year at this time, we were actually feeding hay because we were so low on pasture. Then we were scrambling in Winter because we were short on hay, and in addition to the scramble it wasn’t always the best hay, which was really disappointing. Right now we have more hay than we know what to do with, and it is all stored, we are feeding pasture only and not seeing any worrisome signs of not having enough, and the hay that we have is really good hay! We will even be processing a bull and a steer very soon and that will be our first beef that we have raised ourselves. Those are so many great changes! Even the garden is bigger and way more productive this year than last year. It’s easy to get into a rut of focusing on all the many things that need to be done, at some point though it’s impotant to take stock of what has been done, and how much better off we are just one year later! The next morning? We went back to our to do lists;)

I call this picture…

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…Moon Over Coop

 

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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