I’ve officially recovered from the sad canning incident of ’86

canning

I canned with my friend in ’86 and I don’t know what we did but after we painstakingly prepared are foods and jarred them, the bottoms of the glass jars fell out during the canning process, our fault I’m sure but it scarred me. I kept envisioning the tomatoes and glass boiling in the large canner when we opened it up. So sad! I never felt brave enough to can again, yea I scare easily, and yea, I had done it before but I still was afraid. Well, the same friend came over and we pickled asparagus and they worked. Then I was on a roll, and I canned pickled rhubarb and rhubarb chutney. All worked and I am officially over the canning curse or PTSD, whichever you want to call it! I remembered that canning is fun! Can’t wait to do more and more! They are beautiful on the shelf!

Long johns and shorts laundry season…

This has been the longest of what we call “long johns and shorts laundry season” ever. One day you are layered with long johns (it got down to 42 the other night) and then the next day it’s shorts weather and so the laundry straddles two seasons. Not unlike the period of time for Maple Syrup-ing which is measured more by temperature then laundry, with above freezing during the day and below freezing during the night. Today was a warm day, and the next two days promise to be very warm, followed by (surprise) some days in the 60’s and nights in the 40’s.

It has turned out to be a good morel mushroom year after a bit of a not so strong start. We have eaten some and cooked the rougher looking ones to freeze, while keeping some of the in between ones for drying. Last night we had mashed potatoes with Morel Gravy, and well, it was beyond good. It was well paired with pork chops with Rhubarb Chutney (filled with onions, raisins, brown sugar apple cider vinegar and spices) that I made yesterday with some loads of fresh rhubarb from next door. All part of my childcare for produce barter program:) Currently, I have a large credit with them, and so more rhubarb and another big load of Asparagus are coming my way! The credit will also cover the lion’s share of my bulk produce for the cold cellar in the early fall.

morels

dried morels

Here are some of the dried morel mushrooms that will be great this winter when hydrated in white wine or even water and then added to dishes.

In other news we staked the grape vines, which are relatively new still, and hubby got the new electrical fencing up for the piglets, so we have achieved rotational grazing! I really can’t call them piglets much longer, soon they will be qualified as “growers”, not piglets. Hubby got a new pasture for the mini herd. They have been a bit grumpy about their pastures. First cutting of grass that can be baled is coming as soon as the rain stops (like in a week they say) then we can satisfy them a bit more while their pastures grow a bit. The chicks are growing like crazy too, already flapping their little wings albeit uselessly but it’s cute anyway. I found them a little mini perch to practice perching on, it likely was intended to be a CD rack, but for a dollar at St. Vinnie’s it’s perfect chick practice perch!

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Last bit of news is the Garlic is growing well, and so soon we will have our annual discussion, how much to keep and how much to replant. It’s such good garlic I don’t like parting with any to replant but without it would be a sad garlic-less next year!

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While we worked on the grapes, our faithful guard dog (anyone who knows her is laughing now), watched over the farm. It’s a favorite thing of hers, we call it her “Princess of the Farm” pose.

Chicken Little gets Chickens little or… these are my peeps

Most people who know me well know that birds aren’t my thing. I have no problem with them in trees, or in the air as they should be, however, a bird flying in the house or handling birds was NOT in my repertoire! Hubby was floored when I said I wanted to get Chickens. There was definitely some laughter involved here on his part, but I am determined to feed us, so Chickens for eggs and for meat became my agenda. So having finished the pig book I was on to “Raising Chickens” which I spent a great deal of time studying over the winter. (Not sure when I will ever read fiction again, and I really don’t miss it!) Now I was cramming for the test… their arrival.

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We brought home this small box from the Hatchery. They went peep, peep, peep all the way home!

I ordered 12 birds. I am hoping for many males out of this straight run (unsexed birds). There are 4 Australorps, 4 Buff Orpingtons, and 4 Silver Wyandottes. I picked them as I said in an earlier entry for their cold hardiness, their more gentle nature, the fact that they will become broody and care for young, and because lastly they will forage and look for food, which some birds actually don’t do much of at all anymore. These are also slower growing birds, which is more natural.

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…and here they are in their little make shift brooder in the garage. They have already grown a bit bigger and are now in an old watering tank. They are sweet little balls of fluff. They are also pooping machines! Because I got them late in the year they will be able to go outside sooner then they would have otherwise, thankfully, they will then poop outdoors or in a much more easily swept out coop. The lid to the waterer they are in now is awkward and too heavy, I will rummage for some screening material that will be more light weight for ease of use. They are funny little creatures. I was told they are the closest living animal to the dinosaur!!

Hunting!

Armed with a sharp, small knife and lots of enthusiasm I joined in on the annual Morel Mushroom hunt! I have only done this a bit because my job was processing or cooking them, Hubby was the hunter. We decided to divide and conquer because the area that needed to be covered could not be covered before dark any other way. I was completely thrilled when I found this mushroom! Then I found 5 more!! I excitedly sent this picture to Hubby who was in a different area of the woods hunting and ….

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then he sent back this photo…

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Of course it’s not a competition, right?

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The evening was beautiful and it was a great hunt through the woods even if I only came up with six mushrooms myself!

The garden is growing

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It’s been wonderful fun watching each little plant pop it’s head out of the soil. Most everything is doing well, even the potatoes are growing in their buckets nicely. Despite some heavy rainstorms the plants all hung in there. After I saw how the grassy fields got flattened from the winds and the rain I had been afraid to look, and it was a pleasant surprise to see how these vulnerable looking plants are actually quite resilient and tough!

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To the experienced gardner this site may not mean a lot but to me, it was the first taste of what will be a long season full of bounty from this garden, and yea, I relished in it!

My neighbors are ready to share a large amount of their asparagus and rhubarb with me (as a trade for lovely baking time spent with their young daughter at our house – while Mama got something done), and they also have a good recipe for pickled Asparagus. That’s got to be good! The rhubarb will be eaten now and also frozen for the upcoming Strawberry season, since my favorite jam is Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam. The rest will be frozen to provide a nice midwinter surprise of Rhubarb Crisp out of season!

Jumping into Pig Mode…

I was winding up a great visit with family out west where I got to meet our new beautiful baby granddaughter. These visits are treasured and the time always goes to fast! As I was packing Hubby called and although we thought we had a week to ready ourselves for the arrival of the piglets,  he said that the farmer we were purchasing them from was ready for us to pick them up the night after I was to get home. I spent the flight from the West to the Midwest reading my pig book I purchased while out there. I read it cover to cover. The morning after I got home we had a day to finish the pig pen. The idea was to build a small pen off the old goat shed which stands in an already much larger fenced in area.

pig book

There was the general debate at first, familiar to other projects, where I feel there should be more discussion and referencing to readings and hubby is thinking time is awaistin’ and  let’s get it done! He is amazing when there is a physical job to be done, he just doesn’t stop until it is completed. Sometimes I  make him break for food, I can guarantee you no one has ever had to ask me to do that!

fencing

So, I’ve added a new skill to my list of “skills in progress”! I learned how to wrap the wire connectors around the T posts that secure the hog panels for the pig pen. Although I am not quick at it at all, it did mean he could start working on another part of the fence while I, all too slowly worked on this task. Each one got a little easier. Hubby could still do four blindfolded while I do one though!

We started with a very small pen. One of the things I read about was that a small pen would not allow the pigs to run away from us, therefore, we could all get to know each other. The theory is that if you try to get to know them in a large space they can run away when you approach them. They also learned that we had the food, so now if we go into a large space where they are, they will come to us thinking we have food for them, therefore allowing us leverage in gathering or handling them. I have to say it’s astounding how much pigs love their food. Each time I go to feed them they sound as if they haven’t been fed in a week, with all their oinking and squealing… and for the record, I now fully know the meaning of “eating like pigs”, wow! In general, the pigs warmed to us quickly, pretty much one back scratch, one bowl of food and we were their new BFFs!

After a proper getting to know one another period, Hubby enlarged their area for night time…and also put in electric fencing to give them their first slice of what will be a rotationally grazed area within the old goat fencing. They also now have a lovely wallow, and they literally define the word as they sink down into it with grunts and oinks of enjoyment!

pigs wallow

In keeping with the other livestock on the farm, I wanted them to have names. Since it is possible we may do this each year (assuming all goes well this year) and possibly get more than two next time, I thought a good way to track them over the years would be by naming them A-Z much like hurricanes, excuse the comparison… Meet Ada and Bessie.

Finally getting my hands dirty!!

This is finally it, Spring has really arrived, and quite welcome being that it is already May 2nd! Having said this, the northern part of the state today, only 4.5 hours away, received 14 inches of wet Spring snow, complete with power outages and school closings! Hard to believe we live in the same state, with the sunny nice day we have here.

After much planning for the garden I have finally gotten my hands dirty and am happily planting away. It sounds silly but I marvel that each little seed knows what to turn into and that so much food can come from one seed! The garden this year is a mix of the “lasagna garden/kill mulch” and standard planted beds. Next year we will transition completely to the “lasagna garden/kill mulch, but for now the garden is a bit of an improv garden which is just fine for this beginner.

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It felt great to get dirty finally:)

Since Spring came so late, green grass took a long time to arrive and the mini herd got impatient. Hay is at a premium this year due to last year being so dry. We did score a large bale but the seller was pretty clear, “it’s expensive it’s not that good, you can pay me what I bought it for, and it’s…. about all there is around here.” We took it. They mini herd has not rejected it completely but seem to mostly enjoy spreading it out with their horns and turning it into a sweet place to settle in for a nap. We corralled them into the old goat pen/soon to be pig pen and they fully enjoyed themselves on the small plot of fresh spring grass! Lesson to be learned, don’t get caught without hay, ever again! The farmer we rent to will this year be able to provide us with hay, so we will be much better prepraed!

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Their heads went straight down and they never really looked up again.

Speaking of the future pig pen we met our piglets the other night. We went out to the farm they are at and saw what they are doing over there. They are a mix of two Heritage Breeds. The piglets were hysterical in their antics. Here is one of the piglets, not sure if it will be ours or not, but…

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…this little piggie was darn cute!

potato buckets

There are still many things not planted because the starter plants are still getting to the right size and there still is that risk of the rare frost so I will wait to do more planting till after I return from a week out of town. I am experimenting with planting potatoes in buckets, which I have heard works very well. Heck, if it works in Mother Earth News, it’s got to be true, right?

fire

At the end of the planting day we had a celebratory first campfire of the season! It was a fun evening together, Hubby and me.

Tomorrow I will be leaving to head to the other side of the country to meet a beautiful sweet new baby granddaughter! There are so many reasons to feel very fortunate, and I try on a daily basis to remember this, and give note. In the past month my father had surgery, my mother-in-law had surgery and my daughter had a baby, and everyone is doing very well. There is great reason to take pause for such good fortune.