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.

Getting my feet back on muddy ground, and it feels great!

Well, for the first time in a long time I have been off the farm for an extended period. Interestingly, everyone’s idea of an extended period is different, and I have to be frank and say that being a way for a whole weekend is hard for me these days. This was much longer. It started with a birthday trip to Florida to celebrate Dad’s 90th with Mom and Dad and my sister (who also flew in from North Carolina). It was great spending the weekend with Mom and Dad and we were all so very grateful to be able to celebrate this mile marker with Dad. The flip side is Dad was not feeling terrific and as his doctor said, “these men of the greatest generation are minimalists and never complain, the flip side is you often don’t know how bad they really are feeling.  This is my Dad, definitely among the greatest of that great generation. The long and short of it was we ended up back down there a week later for an extended period of moving them home, getting the necessary medical work done and getting Dad feeling better, and to that end, he IS feeling better. I feel a bottomless well of gratefulness for this. Once we got them comfortably in their house, and moved in, as best as sister and I could do, we all did a lot of hugging and returned to our homes. Turning into the driveway and seeing the farm after being gone over 13 days this month, was an incredible thing. Simply being in the same room as my husband was an incredible thing. It was good to get the rundown on what’s been happening on the farm. I missed a week of “brutal cold”, according to hubby who generally thinks sub-zero is “nice out”, so it must have been bad. By the time I got home it was Mud Season, yes that’s a title. I couldn’t have been happier to put on my tall boots!

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It’s official!

Here are other signs of Spring!

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I am up to about 4 gallons of sap at this point. I decided to only tap Black Walnut trees this year. We got a little bit of the Black Walnut syrup last year and it was great! Up until now we have been tapping the neighbors Box Elder Trees, but this year we will stay on our land and just tap what we have. We should have plenty of sweetener for the year! I still have a bit of Box Elder Syrup from last year too!

The farm spring round up news…chicks, hogs, and cattle

It is an amazing time of year. Due to the last month being an odd one for me I am behind on a few things, ok, a lot of things! I have been baking and delivering granola like crazy and finally got my chicks ordered and seeds ordered. I may have pushed my limits a bit on the chicks and garden this year, but the chicks arrive on May 11, will be in the brooder for 5-6 weeks in the garage and then we move them on grass each night till late August. It’s a fair investment in time, I think, for enough chicken meat for the year. This year I am going to push to have all livestock have not just two purposes on our farm (as I did for the chickens and hogs last year) but, at the least 3 purposes. Instead of the chickens that we pay to purchase and raise providing us with just meat and eggs, this year they will provide us meat, eggs, egg money (that covers their initial cost as chicks) and a bartering tool. I ordered 50 roos, and 8 hens, of the 50 I will freeze 30 birds in halves so we have 60 halves for the year, that is more than one half a week, or enough for extra people as needed. We eat a half at dinner, so it is perfect for us. I will freeze 5 whole for company, which always looks nice, and then the remaining 15 I will barter with our neighbor or other neighbors for items we need, such as goat milk, or a winter share of potatoes, carrots etc. We are planning 4 hogs this year… if, as the Hog farmer friend told me, “the girls work their magic”. Here’s hoping that they do! I will try to sell 2 in halves or whole, one by piece and for barter, and one for us. The even bigger news is that the cattle will begin to “earn” their place on the farm this year. It’s been almost 3 years since we got the Scottish Highlands, but when you raise grass fed, grass finished beef, you need to be one patient farmer. Well the time has come, which has prompted a lot of research, conversation and exploration. On one of my explores I decided to look for Facebook pages relating to these type of cattle. I proceeded to message a person who had just such a page, and guess what? Not only did they want to help me, they messaged back and forth with me for over an hour answering so many questions we had about upcoming processing, knowing if the animal is ready, and many other questions. I asked this kind man for his address to send him a granola gift, and as of yet he still hasn’t. People can say all that they want about the pitfalls of Facebook, and I agree there are a host of them, but being able to have this easy connection as a resource, and learning and sharing with kind helpful people is wonderful. It made the world smaller that night as I messaged from my farm in Wisconsin to his farm in North Dakota. Obviously, one has to be careful when reaching out like this, but really, getting help from someone who raises Highlands seemed pretty low risk;) After this communication hubby and I  feel so much better about our upcoming processing and now I am thinking more about the terrific upcoming soup bones and less about all the worries! I think perhaps I was thinking too hard. I do this. Ask anyone in my family.

Saturday is my birthday and I think I will spend it working up the soil in the mini high tunnel and getting my first seeds in the ground. A perfect birthday. Oh and of course one must plink on one’s birthday too, so maybe a little shoot out with hubby?

This used to be unusual, happily it is more common now.

As I drove down into this valley for a goat milk barter, I was able to spot this Eagle and capture it in a photo. It’s nice that when I drive in the country, it’s easy to stop in the middle of the road to take a picture because there usually is no one else on the road! Notice the Eagle is carrying his lunch! It is so nice to see these beautiful birds, I’d say we don’t go a whole week without seeing one. We used only see them during migratory changes, so this has been a treat!

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It’s been so ridiculously cold that soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner is fine with me, and this was some of the best Tortilla Soup I have made. A wonderful combination of chicken stock from our chickens, tomato sauce from last year’s tomatoes, and all kinds of summer veggies from the freezer. The tortillas are locally made and the cheese is made about 45 minutes away from here and is about the best Cheddar in our book! I don’t do a lot of purchasing of food these days but when I do, I love buying locally made products!

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I’ve started doubling up on my bread making, seems we are going through it more quickly, as mostly it’s soup and sandwich or soup and bread for at least one meal a day. Temperature today was a high of 3, but mostly it was below zero all day and who really wants to discuss the wind chill numbers, right?

We had some great news! Last summer when we came upon all the extra fire wood, due to the tornado by Hubby’s folks house, we thought it wouldn’t be dry till next year, and right about now, the wood chore is getting a bit old, so when hubby tried out a bit of it from one of the full wood cribs, we found out it was dry enough. It has really lessened chore time for hubby! It will be nice for him to coast for a bit!

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This is what a mirage must look like to chickens in the dead of Winter.

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Some of our neighbor’s lovely micro green flats that he delivers to restaurants are not always restaurant quality. Once his chickens have their fill of the extra trays our chickens get lucky! After they got over their initial fear of this new green object, the boldest one checked it out and then alerted the others with her “I found something great” clucks!! So nice to see them eating something green. I do throw them some sprouts I’ve been growing in the kitchen but these micro green flats are far superior.

Today the wind is howling. It’s a sunny 4 degree day, with wind chills right now at almost -20. Today will no doubt be an indoor day for me, the colder it gets the more I want to cook. Tonight, being Valentine’s Day and all, I used it as an excuse to pick up some local beef (for a change from Chicken and Pork), and so I will cook up some steaks, mashed potatoes, Italian flat beans, and some summer strawberries for dessert. Also, I think I will make a batch of Tortilla Soup. This day needs soup!

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Going out to feed the chickens today will require these! I got them at St. Vinnie’s for $2.00 and they are real sheepskin and they were NEW! When I wear them outside my hands don’t know they have left the house!!

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In the midst of this…Mom and Dad sent beautiful sunny Oranges for us from Florida. Honestly it was like the choir struck a chord when I opened the box, I swear sun rays came out of it!! It was so nice to eat these juicy delicious oranges, that I wanted them to last longer. I decided it might be fun to make orange marmalade, but apparently I would have had to use up all my delicious oranges on that, so I decided to try and make it out of a simple syrup and tiny diced orange peels with the white part trimmed off. Well, it didn’t thicken as much as I would have liked BUT when life gives you thin marmalade, make french toast syrup:) I tried it the other day and it is awesome!!

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I’d be happy eating it with a spoon…

What’s been keeping me busy lately is the Granola biz! It is going through growing pains but in a really good way. I will update when things are finalized, but it has consumed my time and brain, and although that is all good news, today I will need a change. I will be ordering seeds, planning the garden and looking at Chicken breeds, well and of course cooking. Wednesday we are going to tour someone’s chicken operation near here. We have driven by and his set up is great. He has about 15 chicken tractors lined up and moving along daily. I am looking forward to this, in hopes it will help us figure out our Chicken plan for this year.

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This is our bull Scotty, and he is the man. He feels the only good hay is the hay that can barely be reached. I guess it’s the bull version of the grass is always greener on the other side?