Applesauce and Salsa and time for a deep freezer…

A week ago I started processing apples. There are more this year than we have ever had!  We’ve been feeding lots of windfall apples to the pigs and also been picking for ourselves. Hubby is going to try his hand at cider, providing he has time, it’s been a bit busy with lots of guests and things going on here. The applesauce turned out great! This machine is called a squeezo, I have seen newer versions in plastic but this old workhorse has been cranking out applesauce, and tomato sauce for about 30 years. It sends the seeds and skins one direction and the sauce another. It creaks, and it squeaks but it gets the job done. This year I also did bbq sauce with it sending the diced onions and peppers right through with the tomatoes. It turned out to be delicious!

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The tomatoes at this point are in phases of end of summer.

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Some, but not many, are still green, some are with sweet cherry tomatoes, although not warm from the sun anymore and some of the plants are just about done. In general tomato season is coming to a close.

My neighbor on the other hand staggered his plantings better or planted later, but he offered me, on our babysitting in exchange for vegetables program, a nice box of San Marzanos, and they were beautiful!

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San Marzanos are also great for Salsa, which is good for us! These chopped tomatoes are ready for a big batch of yummy salsa. I have made a couple of batches of already this year so we should have enough for the full year after this batch.

Canning season is winding down. I will still can more applesauce and hopefully get to drying apples, and I will also freeze pureed pumpkin but thoughts now are moving towards storage foods for winter such as potatoes, onions, squashes, apples, and carrots. I’m bartering with my neighbor for a winters share of potatoes, carrots, and onions. Way back last winter I convinced the market to give me their bread racks that were stacked outside in the cold. They are the stacked square trays that the bread folks wheel to the bread aisle to fill the shelves with bread. These will be used in the root cellar for storing vegetables. I am hoping next year to provide more of this for ourselves, but this year I am grateful for our wonderful and neighborly exchange program. Other thoughts are of wood/kindling gathering and researching and purchasing a deep freezer for our upcoming harvest of our two Large Black Pigs, a heritage variety that will provide wonderful pastured pork to fill this freezer.. These two items are getting bumped to the top of the list over the next few weeks!

The best and the worst…

The best….

We had a wonderful few days of family time. My west coast daughter’s family, my parents and sister from a state away and my newly transplanted daughter who lives here now, all came to visit. It was great having everyone together and seeing my parents have such fun with the grandchildren. How lucky to have such a great family. We ate well, laughed a lot, talked and talked and enjoyed each others company. I couldn’t ask for a better family or a better visit.

The worst….

Our community lost a good man this week. As I mentioned we had our pond re-dug very recently. The guy was great, and really listened to what we wanted. Unlike some rural contractors who know their work so well, and do a combination of what you want and what they think is best, this guy made our goals his goals, as hubby well stated. He even came by a bit over a week ago to take another look and make sure the pond was filling and that we were happy with it, and then an awful thing happened. This 37 year old, this husband and father of 2 young children, and volunteer fire department worker, went in for an outpatient procedure and never woke up. The community is reeling from this, and it’s still hard to believe it happened. One of the blessings of a small community is the safety net of support that is offered in bad times. Everyone has reached out to this young widow and her family. We went to the visitation yesterday and there he was, open casket, looking as he did a week and half prior at our house. It really is a startling reality to process. This never should have happened and it is so hard to get the brain to accept that it has. These are the times where we are reminded, once again, to experience gratefulness daily, to notice beauty everywhere, and to remind us that this life given to us will be what we choose.  …living without mindfulness of love, life, beauty and gratefulness daily, in my mind, can leave life with hollow and empty spaces unnecessarily, and this is not something I’ve just recognized because of this tragedy, this past year has brought a new mindfulness to my world, and it makes my world richer everyday.

During this past week with this whole event on my mind, I found comfort in daily chores…feeding the animals, cleaning the coop, cleaning up the gardens, planting radishes, lettuces and spinach for cold frames, baking bread and cooking garden foods. These routines fed my soul.

Hats off to a very good man, and a very brave widow.

Summer to Fall almost overnight!

apple picking

A week ago it was over 90 degrees, and now it is already cool nights and mornings, the tall grasses are turning golden colored and we have more apples than we ever have! It’s a beautiful time of year but also a reminder of all that needs to be done before the winter winds blow. These apples will become Applesauce, and we will pick more today that will either become more applesauce or dried apples, depending on how much sauce the first batch makes.

The garden is ahead of most people’s gardens, because I risked planting early, and got lucky to not have lost it all for that very reason! So while others are just hitting harvest, I am harvesting and cleaning up the garden. The pigs are enjoying the garden clean up as they have been getting a lot of things thrown their way, such as outer cabbage leaves, some collard plants that the cabbage moths finally got, and a few not so good tomatoes.

lucky pigs

I collected what might be that one of the last few batches of cherry tomatoes and made amazing tasting roasted tomatoes that I was given a recipe for by a friend. The tomatoes and garlic caramelized a bit during the cooking and they were beyond great. This is what they looked like roasting…

tomatoes cooking

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…and this is what they looked like on grilled “no knead” bread with a bit of olive oil. We are enjoying every last bite of the garden!

The days are getting noticeably shorter and the skies have been beautiful. Even last night after it rained all night, we got sunshine just before sunset.

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This picture was taken a couple of days ago, the clouds were changing shape every time I took another look.

Other news on the farm…

We have a Rooster with a mean streak. After lots of observation, it was decided that this bird needed to move. Fortunately we have another run, and fortunately also Hubby is amazing and built a small coop in a couple of hours for this very naughty bird. Although separate is not equal, we have done what we can to be sure he has all needs met, (apart from terrorizing the other birds) this includes, adequate housing, a sun/shade mix and plenty of food and fresh water, and that is the best we can do for this bully rooster. When he fattens up a bit he will make a wonderful meal for us. It will be the first time we eat meat we raised ourselves and I look forward to that becoming our new way of eating. While on the topic of meat, another thing on the agenda is figuring out what our options are for our pigs. They are getting fatter as we watch! Butchering time will be between October and mid November, and I have a lot to learn about the best ways to do this. Ideally we would NOT put them live, into a truck and haul them to a butchering facility but there are so many regulations, quite understandably. I would rather they were “lights out” on the farm and then hauled as it would be much kinder to let this happen while they are in their comfortable surroundings. The truck is bound to make them anxious which is not the way I want their life to end. Anxiety and fear can release adrenaline into the meat which is not favorable to the meat at all. A friend of mine did say though that she worried about this same thing but was surprised to see her pigs happily go up the ramp into the truck. The difference in farm slaughter and facility slaughter can mean the difference in legal sale, so I may have no options but to haul them live. So let the research begin, and believe me when I say this is all new to me! Talking to other farmers, reading regulations, searching other homesteading blogs and reading through my homesteading library should equip me to handle this decision.

little ones

We now have 7 cows. Our little guy from this past Spring looks like a big guy next to this young fellow! They have been enjoying each others company and have been quite playful and amusing to watch. We purchased this new little guy and his Mama and also a bull who will hopefully take care of our three girls and yield us three calves in the late Spring. We are not sure this bull has the stature yet to achieve the task but we’ve seen him try and we know the interest is there! Hubby is working hard on fencing new areas to expand our pastures. This seems to be an endless task, seems the cattle can eat things down as fast as he builds new fence lines!

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I’ve been loving the harvest in the garden. The colors are beyond vibrant and as the season winds up, I continue to find new ways to use and preserve these vegetables. I could spend hours reading recipe books, in fact I could spend more than that, there just are not the hours in the day. Keeping a balance between my business and the farm is a tight rope act, I don’t want to leave either not tended to properly.

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Speaking of the granola business, this is just another beautiful view on my way to bake granola. I’m feeling so lucky to have one foot in each of these worlds, both farming to feed ourselves and baking delicious, healthy organic and local granola to feed ourselves and others:)

Been on the road….

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This past week I drove cross country with my daughter who is moving back to our area. We drove through Yellowstone, The Tetons, The Bighorns, The Black Hills and The Badlands. Sprinkled in was a visit to the Idaho Potato Museum, 1800’s Town, an overnight stay at a cabin just outside the Tetons and some stories that will definitely be remembered. By the end of the trip though, we were both more than ready to get off the road!

Before I left for the trip there was so much to get done. The garden was hitting it’s big crescendo and it was a bit of an undertaking to get it all done, while at the same time I was working to get enough Granola made and delivered to to keep everyone stocked till my return.

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My kitchen most days looked like this, it was an amazing amount of beautiful food, but volumes to process before a vacation. I was basically unstoppable, I couldn’t waste one beautiful veggie.

In addition to all the garden produce, I had purchased a 25 pound case of local peaches from up north in the state and I had looked forward to them all summer so they also had to get done. I had hoped to make peach butter and peach jam, but the clock was ticking and so I peeled and froze them all knowing that I could make those things later from the frozen peaches. As I peeled all the peaches I couldn’t bear to toss the peels or give them to the pigs, they were too good, so when I couldn’t eat anymore of them without bursting, I put them in a pot with just a bit of water and simmered them hoping I would find a recipe in which to use them. After a 911 text message to my daughter she suggested Peach Honey! So delicious!! Below is the photo of the simmering peach peels…

peach skins

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The final product was this delicious Peach Honey!

Other things that were happening at the same time included local corn, that I blanched and froze, and our grapes that were hanging in large clusters and calling out to me. Hubby plans to increase the mini vineyard next year and possibly sell to a local winery, but I wanted to do something special with them this year. We ate some and the rest I turned into a simple but delicious grape juice.

grape juice

Finally, the corn was frozen, the relish was made,  the juice was made, the tomato sauce canned, the peppers were pickled, and it was time to head out on vacation. It was down to the wire but I enjoyed all of the productivity and was thrilled with the rewards we will enjoy all year!