A Neighborly Invite

rhubarb strawberry

I’ve written endlessly about my food preservation for this winter. Now it’s time to start sharing about all the goodness the pantry and the freezer have to offer us this winter. These strawberries and rhubarb were pulled out of the freezer in response to a nice invite to dinner from our wonderful neighbor. The smell of these yummy fruits was like closing your eyes and smelling early summer! I made a rhubarb strawberry crisp to bring over that night.

summer dessert

What an absolute treat to eat a summer dessert – so out of season but in a good way because I didn’t buy it from a store that shipped it from far away! These are local strawberries and my neighbor’s rhubarb from last summer that I received by barter. He had a fire going in the wood stove when we came in, and the table was beautifully set… It looked like the cover of “Farmhouse Beautiful” if there is such a thing. He had slices of locally made sausage from pastured pork, three different local cheeses, grilled olive oiled bread with roasted peppers, tomato sauce and cheese, tiny pickles, olives, and a delicious Tomato Soup with croutons. All homemade, and mostly from his farm. It was a very nice evening. He even sent us home with a quart of his soup!

neighborly soup

This is what we had the next night at home, with slices of my homemade no knead bread, thanks to our kind neighbor!

In other news…

black turtle beans

I scored these free black turtle beans in exchange for about 20 minutes of harvesting help with my neighbor. He had a small patch of them that took no time to gather. We just cut the whole plants down and later my daughter and I sat at the counter and shelled them. They are beautiful. I may try growing these next year, and maybe other dried bean varieties too!

chips and salsa

She and I also made some corn chips to fill the empty snack jars with, which made for a yummy snack break.

a dozen

But the most important headline news is that the hens have got this egg laying thing down now! In a matter of three days we have a dozen. Take that shopping list! Look how you got shorter yet again. I actually went online and googled grocery lists and found some incredibly complete lists. I went through them and circled things we still need to buy and it amazed me how little there was to circle. We now have eggs regularly, eat all homemade carb type foods such as noodles, bread, crackers, chips etc., chicken in the freezer, tons of frozen fruits and vegetables, all the pickles and condiments we could want and over 300 pounds of pork to pick up on Friday for our new freezer we set up last night. We will of course be selling a lot of the pork, but it will also be our go to source for meat. Why? Because it is what we have. This Spring we will also have beef, can not wait to make Braised Short Ribs and Beef Barley Soup and Beef Jerky! Oh the changes we have made since just almost one year ago exactly. Feeling proud.

end of day

Day is done.

Cool mornings…

runaway

Good Morning farm. Although this little guy is enjoying hanging with his Mama in this picture, he tends to often break his own trail. We asked our grandson what would be a good name for him and he logically said, “Runaway”. So this is little Runaway getting a bit of milk before beginning his curious wanderings for the day.

late fall

It’s definitely late fall. Cold, crisp and beautiful.

oatmeal breakfast

In fact it’s been so chilly I treated the chickens to warm oatmeal with yogurt to warm them up. It literally was devoured in seconds!! It’s funny about the chickens… since the roosters are no longer, the usually elusive and stand off-ish hens have changed. They greet me at the door, and squat down in front of me waiting to be stroked. They have no problem being picked up at this point either. Now that would have been nice when we did our harvesting of the chickens, the hardest part was catching them back then!

Now that the pigs are gone, there is less “choring” to do outside. I do still have my experimental cold frames going, although recent heavy rains really got the hay bale walls around the plantings pretty wet. It may be that once those wet bales freeze that they it may get too cold for my tender lettuces deep down in the hay bale frames. The experiment has led me to many good ideas for next year though… like low tunnels or even better a high tunnel (in my dreams)!

Live it, learn it!

Talk about hard lessons learned. Loading the pigs was a series of unfortunate events, and the truck ending up leaving with the pigs still here. We didn’t plan for it being so difficult. They would follow me anywhere I went with feed buckets and it was going to be easy, just follow the bucket into the truck. Hmmm they were on to us and for the first time ever they did not follow the food. We almost got one in the truck but she changed her mind. Bottom line is that it is pretty near impossible to steer a 300 pound hog!

SO it was…Hogs 1Farmers 0!

Lesson learned? Never build infrastructure for a new animal on the farm without knowing how they will get out of said area and into a truck! Our newness to this type of farming showed a lot yesterday, and that’s ok to be put in our place a bit. It’s all a learning experience. No mistakes, no lessons learned. Today we had them harvested on the farm instead of loading them live. It’s really what I wanted, so that they would go while in their happy pasture where they felt comfortable. It was hard, but it also felt right. We are learning to provide for ourselves and it won’t ever be easy, and it shouldn’t be.

pigs wallow

I feel grateful to the pigs for the healthy food they have provided us with, and for allowing us to continue on our path as we step towards homesteading and sustainability.

The thing about sustainability is that the word is thrown around a lot, I found many definitions. This one made sense to me,  I found it where I wasn’t really looking – on the EPA website.

“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony.

This is what we are stepping towards.

This week… snow, pasta and pig news

chicken surprise

Not sure if the Chickens were surprised when they came down the plank from their coop this morning but I sure was! The first time it always feels like, “but it’s too soon”! Anyhow while hubby does the dirty work of figuring how to design our chicken waterer into a heated chicken waterer, I came to the rescue with some warm oatmeal with vanilla yogurt for the girls. It was awfully cold and I kicked into Mama mode. Despite the cold we are regularly getting about 2-3 eggs a day and this has been going on for only a week, so we may even get more as time goes on.

lettuces

Despite the snow these little beauties keep laughing at the cold! Fresh salad in late November will be amazing!

IMG_8182

The trick is not spilling, the treat is hot coffee while going out to do morning feedings.

which one?

I decided to try making pasta by hand. It can’t be that hard, right? I needed 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks and since our girls are just getting in the swing of this laying thing, we are still buying eggs. One of these eggs is from our girls, can you tell which one? I love this picture! It tells all.

Here is how the pasta went…

rolled noodles

then this….

cut noodles

and lastly this…

noodles freezer ready

I will now be able to take pasta off my grocery list. I love my shorter and shorter shopping list. This bag is going in the freezer. I never thought about having pasta in the freezer, but I sure will have reserves now. It really was easy to make!Oh and PS it was great! I didn’t even sauce mine, just butter and a little salt, It was simple and decadent all at the same time.

Tomorrow is pig loading day. I feel like I have been in a Hog immersion program for the last few weeks. I have been studying pig cut away diagrams, compared prices of each type of cut to 5 other pastured pork farms, compared our numbers as to what we have put into the animals, lined up Hog pick up and picked a slaughter facility. Figuring out what cuts to have made was completely more complicated than I thought, and I spent quite a bit of time talking to the slaughter facility about what we wanted. (Which was basically a little of everything so that next year we will know exactly what we want.) It is a lot of learning for this new farmer!

Now the next hurdle is the pick up. The set up is not perfect to get them loaded in the trailer but I am hoping that we have thought it out well enough that we will have a set up that will get the job done. Hopefully without too much stress on the Hogs.

I’ve been asked a fair amount, “how will you feel when you take them in for slaughter” being that this is a real first for me. I think I know exactly how I feel about it, but I will write about it on the other side.

A first and a last

egg

A first! This was an exciting find! What I read said that the hens would start providing us eggs in 6 months and guess what we are 4 days short of 6 months! It’s been a bit of a time investment but hopefully I can soon add eggs to the list of things I don’t buy at the store anymore!

last red tomato

…and a last. This was the last beautiful red ripe tomato of the year, of course it ripened on the window sill but that’s ok, it still counts. It was savored and enjoyed.

All fresh produce thoughts have turned toward pumpkins, squashes and root vegetables for the most part. Although I still have some Kale hanging in there, not even covered. It’s close to the house which gives it some warmth and staying power.

kale : fall

and it makes a nice fall photo with the fall leaves in the background.

beef stew

These root vegetables were perfect for a cool night when combined with some local grass fed beef, and served with warm homemade bread!

I’ve been focused on getting all the pumpkins processed. All the seeds were removed, with some help from my daughter and the thinner walled pumpkins went to the pigs, while the nice think walled ones went in the oven to be roasted, which looked like this…

roasted pumpkin

and then like this…

pumpkin puree

I ended up with about 16 cups of pumpkin puree and lots of toasted pumpkin seeds. I love the smell of the house when pumpkin seeds are toasting!

I’ve tried a few new recipes recently. A new recipe for the no-knead bread, which is very similar except you don’t flip the bread off a towel awkwardly into a 450 degree pot. In this case you rest the bread on parchment instead of a towel and you skip the awkward messy stick to the towel flip and just set it in the very hot pot, parchment and all. The result is below.

no knead bread

This is a lot more reliable then the “flip” that sometimes works and sometimes just makes a mess of the oven and my towel! I actually forgot to put whole wheat flour in with the white. It tasted very good but didn’t stand up to being sliced as well as the without the whole wheat.

The other thing I tried as far as recipes go, was a recipe for Empanadas, ok they were actually called Bolivian Meat Pies, but seemed much the same to me. They were great!

empanadas

and very pretty too!

Other things on the farm besides cooking that are going on? The pigs go to market in about a week. I still have a lot to learn about the cuts of meat. When I met with the butcher he explained how, “if you want chops then there isn’t a tenderloin, and if you want this, then there isn’t a that, and this can be fresh or cured and, and, and…” I walked out far more confused then when I walked in, so I have been reading about cuts of pork and these trade offs, trying to make sense of it. I have also been reading about cuts that often don’t get processed or don’t get given back to you, and am trying to make myself aware of what these cuts are and also make myself aware of how they would be cooked and used.

The cold frames are doing well growing lettuces, which we should be eating soon. The rest of the garden though is ready for a new layer of kill mulch… a layer of seedy, crummy compost or bad hay, followed by a layer of heavy wet cardboard, on top of this goes a layer of good seed free compost and the garden will be ready for Spring.

Other things left to do… plant the garlic, deal with the raspberry canes, clean up the kitchen garden, and bundle kindling for fail proof fire building! Hubby insulated the nesting boxes for “the 5 girls” to keep them warmer this winter. We may have to up the wattage of the light bulb in the coop to keep them warm enough this winter and to keep their water from freezing in the coop. The viney gardens could use a kill mulch layer as well.

With the garden quieting down now and half of our chickens in the freezer, and the pigs gone next week, things will be a bit less busy around here farm-wise. This will give me more time to focus on my Granola business, which is perfect timing because the Winter Gift Giving Season is amping up and this makes for a busy Granola time of year. I will be sampling at a large, high end grocery store on Saturday along with about 120 local food producers (spread out over fri-sun). This will be great for sales,  but it is also more importantly an opportunity to get my granola into the hands and mouths of people who have not tried it yet. Yesterday I came close to closing a deal with a cafe owner in town who has 3 very popular cafes, often voted “best of” by a yearly poll. He will let me know next week, but he chowed my granola throughout our meeting so I am thinking he liked it a lot! This would be an order of about 150 pounds a month, which would be awesome! Currently I am working to expand into 5 co-op locations and a grocery market that has 5 locations in our area. 2014 may be very busy, if I am lucky!!