A solo week

Tomorrow hubby comes home. AND the cows are alive and well, the pigs are littie bit fatter, and the chickens have learned to understand their new home. Their yards are all clean, the pigs and chickens have been helping with garden scraps, the compost pile has grown in variety and quantity and the yards are mowed, basically all went well!! It’s been fun really. I enjoyed the rhythm of it all…

It goes something like this…Start the water for the coffee, go out and first stop is putting the chickens food and water in their attached yard, and then opening the chicken coop door, and watching them march out mostly all at once through the small door, which for the record, does not work, but it’s still fun to watch! Then I greet the cows and open their gate, make the pigs food and feed them, and while they are eating I dump their water buckets in their wallow and rinse and fill them with fresh water, finally I top off the cattle’s water tank and then head in to find the water just at a boil and I put in the coffee and it’s ready in 6 minutes of perking, almost like instant;)

I thoroughly have enjoyed these daily routines with the animals. The waking up and beginning of the day is really a different interaction then the quiet night time closing up of things, and both feel like a pretty nice way to begin and finish a day.

So much rain!

storm front

We have had a lot of rain recently and this week that I have been holding down the fort has been super rainy. This picture was actually the night before hubby left for the west coast, it was a very dramatic looking sky which ironically resulted in no rain, this storm went north.

rain gauge

This old horse corner feeder, has become a default rain gauge. Seems that rain gauges always have an expiration date, always falling apart sooner than later. The rain in here was a day and half’s worth of rain and probably about 4-5 inches..

flooding by highway

On the way to town I passed this planted farm field, which appears to be a lake.

flooding in town

This was what it looked like as I got into town. There were actually other towns not far from here that had considerably more rain, with one community getting 13.2 inches! Most homes there sustained some degree of damage. It’s been tough for a lot of people,  I feel very grateful we live on a hillside. That hubby is a good planner. I have teased him that he should have been a risk assessor, however, I also find out that routinely his very critical  thinking leaves us in a good place. I’m always learning things from him, sometimes when he doesn’t know it at all.

Getting scrappy in the kitchen…

So I am trying to fine tune a system of how to best handle kitchen scraps and waste. In the past vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, embarrassingly all went in the trash. Hubby had a remote site for dumping some compostable waste such as bad hay etc., however, I never really made friends with a system for compost. If I had a whole lot of a certain thing such as, the peelings from 25 pounds of potatoes at Thanksgiving, he would take it out for me. Now that I am looking at everything from a different set of eyes garbage has become a science. Ends of vegetables and peelings all go in a bag in the freezer. They eventually will make a vegetable broth. Then the spent ends and pieces that made the broth become pig food once cooled. Egg shells would be something that would go in compost although the pigs eat them and if washed, dried and crushed they are good for the chickens, it provides them more calcium. I do want to look into what our local grocery store is wasting as well. An example would be, where is that organic milk going when it expires? Is it thrown away? The pigs would be happy to slurp it up with great speed. There is always vegetable waste at a grocery store too, and quality bakeries that have bread waste would be a good place to start looking too. I never thought much about garbage, and now I find myself thinking about it on many levels.

Goodbye to the Brooder

We are preparing for a different kind of week. Hubby is off to the west coast to visit with family for a week, and I will be taking care of things here. After what turned out to be a long granola baking day today, I will put in one more day tomorrow. This way I will have my baking done for the week and will have time to do things on the farm for the majority of the week. The gardens need weeding, there are veggies to blanch and freeze, the cherry tree is about to pop with red cherries, the black cap berries look like by the end of the week they will begin turning purple and the animals need feeding and cleaning up after. I’m looking forward to it all, as well as some down time to do some reading.  I’m hoping I even throw a line in fishing at a very near by trout stream.

We had a very big day here yesterday. The chickens have left the brooder and are now finally in their coop and yard. They were very confused by the transition and mostly cowered in the corner of the coop. We finally gently pushed them out into the yard and they curiously began exploring. So nice to see them pecking around in green grass, and out of the watering tank/brooder in the garage!

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Beautiful summer salad!

My neighbors were over the other night. Their 8 year old son and I did a bit of cooking together, for a combined dinner later that evening with his family, while his Mom and sister prepared something for the meal at home. The salad they brought was partly foraged and partly their wonderful farming, this is what it looked like…

salad

Good neighbors, good food, good time.

blanch, freeze, and repeat!

I am happy to say that I have too much Kale, Collards and Chard to eat, which is totally what I hoped for when I planted. In addition to eating these yummy veggies, I am blanching and freezing them in portions for two. When Fall and Winter come, I will be happily turning to the freezer instead of the organic produce aisle at the store to buy some very expensive, well traveled produce, from California, Mexico or even farther! I am hoping to fill the freezer with all kinds of green vegetables, homegrown greens will be a real treat come January! At this point I am moving my attention from Asparagus, and Rhubarb to green beans, although the season has only just started they are plentiful. I have beans here and we will eat and enjoy those fresh, but I don’t have enough for processing and since we love Spicy Dilly Beans and I want to have enough frozen till next year’s beans begin to produce, I got started early.

berries

The call came! I’ve been waiting for word on Strawberries, and I got it the other day. My wonderful organic farmer neighbors next door, have connections to all kinds of seasonal goodies and now I have enough strawberry jam, rhubarb-strawberry jam, and frozen strawberries for the year. The pigs are loving all my produce scraps and pretty much inhaled the strawberry tops and green bean ends!

This year’s garden has taught me so much about planning, planting, and maintaining, a garden. It’s also brought a greater understanding of seasonal rotation and how to get the most out of the garden. Mostly I’ve learned a ton of things that start out like this…”next year I will…”

grapes

Our very young “vineyard” as we laughingly call it, is coming along nicely. Hubby is ready to increase the grapes in a large way next year. He already talked to a winery in town and they are always interested in local grapes.

It’s important to me that in the midst of getting this done and that done that I am aware of the present and not just planning for the next to do item. I thought this was a worthy stop on my way to the next thing..

garlic lattice

The Garlic has provided us with a green lattice, which looks so pretty in the garden!

Animal updates

The chickens are growing like crazy and beginning to complain about their space. There have been some struggles getting their coop set up, but we acquired this coop for $50 and it came with an attached fenced yard, so it was a good beginning. This is the original coop, but then Hubby took it apart and insulated it, put in windows and much more. He’s poured cement footings for it, and it’s almost ready to go! Here it is as is, when we got it…

first stage coop

And here is the almost ready coop shown below. They will be in their new home very soon!

coop redo

The pigs are also growing fast, and eating voraciously, but mostly right now they are hiding in their shed trying to get away from the baking sun and hot temperatures. They are relishing in all the garden scraps. It is nice to know that all pieces of food grown here will get used. If it isn’t for us to eat, then it is for them. Everyone gets fed and then anything else goes into the compost for better garden soil next year! Each bit of food has a purpose.

wallowing

This is definitely wallowing weather! The forecast is threatening 100 degree heat indexes, which somehow makes the long cold winter we had seem light years away.

In other animal news, the cattle are getting ready for big happenings, as the weekend of the July 4th young Joey Meatball will get banded and very soon the girls will be bred. There is lots of learning going on here to understand the cycle, the signs and the implications of each. I love the learning and watching their behavior is so helpful to understanding how they respond to situations and people. Spring on the farm is a busy time!

 

Thinking ahead

Although it is only the first week of June, I am learning to think ahead. According to my books, (and all I do is read reference books these days, and I am not complaining, I love it) July is the time to start thinking about planting cool weather plants that will be ready in early Fall and even linger into November with a cold frame over it. So if July is the time to start doing that then June is the time to start thinking about it. Since gardening is at this point is a constant learning process for me, I am trying to make myself familiar with the proper season for each vegetable so that I don’t miss out on preserving them. Green beans are around the corner and  just are not going well here, seems my little chipmunk pals have their cheeks stuffed with tender green bean shoots, so I will be going to an organic u-pick farm for these. So far my freezer has, from this season, bags of morel mushrooms, rhubarb and asparagus. The vacuum sealer will make these vegetables still taste freshly frozen till next season’s fruits and vegetables are available.

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It will soon be time to look into a chest freezer, for upcoming meat processing, in addition to the loads of fruits and vegetables! This idea that came to life last November is really incrementally falling into place, and next year we will be even closer to achieving the goal of providing for ourselves. This newbie is loving every step and looking forward to learning more every day.

An awkward loaf…

I have been making the same bread recipe for months now, several times a week. So I got used to the bread looking much like this…

bread

although admittedly this was the prettiest loaf I’ve made. The other day though, I made the bread as usual, and when I came back all those hours later (18 hours for this recipe) I knew it was not right at all! I still can’t figure out what happened but it was a small brick of a loaf. Since the neighbors were over the other night for a campfire and their little girl helps me bake all the time, I asked her to come inside with me to take the bread out of the oven. When I looked at it, I said to her…”you know what my bread usually looks like, right?” She replied, “yes it’s verrrry pretty!” I told her to look in the pot and tell me what she thought of this loaf, and she studied it carefully she said… “awkward?” After I stopped rolling with laughter, I decided that it would have to become croutons and I would be making another loaf. You can always count on a four year old to call it like it is!

The Honor System

garden

We had a wonderful outdoor pizza and campfire gathering at our place with the neighbors a couple of nights ago. Their son had his last day of school and so it was a summer kick off celebration with homemade apple pie, (younger sister said Rhubarb pie was too sour), and a salad that was 5 minutes out of the garden. They brought over yummy additions to the salad from their farm which included beautiful edible flowers and garlic scapes! Of course there were s’mores to finish out the night:)

The garden is beautiful, or it is to me anyhow! For a first real attempt I am most pleased. So far we are eating Collards, Kale, a variety of salad greens, radishes, chives, and herbs. It’s so nice to reduce the amount of produce purchased at the store. It’s also incredibly less expensive seeing that I was buying organic produce, which adds up quickly! Yesterday I spent the day whittling down my list of to do’s. I got the main garden, the herb garden by the kitchen and the “viney” garden up the hill all heavily mulched. My buckets that are growing potatoes are growing like crazy, and in order to keep “hilling” them, I had to make extensions to the buckets so they can continue to grow upwards, and still have room to “hill” them with mulch. I’ve wrapped the top of the buckets in chicken wire to achieve this. I’ve had some issues with critters eating my tender young things, and so I’ve got some things covered with row cover material. It won’t keep them out, but it is less inviting!

I also got the pig yard cleaned up as well as the paddock for the Cattle. This process of raising animals for food is an awesome responsibility that will, for me, always go beyond bare needs and adequate care. To me, when raising animals for food or profit, your actions will define how they will live their lives before they give theirs for you. I want to give the best care and thoughtful attention to the quality of their lives, that I am able to achieve. I can’t make the flies go away, by cleaning their yard, but I want to do whatever I can to reduce their numbers. It’s the right thing to do. It saddens me to pass farms and see animals surrounded by excrement. When they are penned in areas in high numbers it’s because people selected for them to live that way, the animals just don’t get much say in the deal. To me, caring for livestock is part of the honor system, really. The Honor system is defined as “…by which one or both parties in an interaction are expected to honor trust granted to them by the other”.

I feel a lot of trust has been granted to us with the 18 mouths we feed…