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.

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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