This picture sums up August.
Produce season has been keeping me extremely busy, which means between baking and delivering granola for my business, and processing food from the garden, and the farm, that those are the only two things happening here now.
There are definite signs of winter coming, laugh if you will, but one of the signs is Fall. Fall has become less of a season and more of a warning of last chances. Last chances for collecting apples, last chances to plan out and set up cold frames to keep the “cold” crops going through the end of the year, last chance to harvest every last vegetable, and to secure winter storage for veggies with our bartering neighbor (who has a walk in cooler), last chance for free fall raspberries at said neighbors as well. Other last chances include, last chance to get the pigs to put on as much weight as possible, and to get our steer on the best grass possible, for the next two months before he also goes to the locker (a challenge for the greenhorns as our herd size increases).
We didn’t realize how quickly Fall would be on us, until the chickens stopped laying eggs and we realized the days are getting quite a bit shorter and so it was time to give them more light in their day. The timed light is back on, and the eggs came back. The apples in the orchard are ready, the garlic is dry enough to put away, the tomatoes are at the 5 gallon bucket a day stage, the grapes are ready, and the Brussels Sprouts are getting bigger. The Kale and Collards look nicer now that some of the extreme heat is lessening, they love the cool and even cold weather, they went till the end of November last year. (I am hoping for a better cold frame around them this year to keep them going longer.)
All this is to say, that we know the weeks are going to start going faster and faster as we squeeze more and more in to them. Hubby is doing the final push to get the cattle across the driveway onto the first of a series of new pastures. I think he will feel the weight of, maybe not the world, but how about the weight of a cow off his shoulders, when this gets done. It’s been hard dealing with the consequences of our getting into the cattle a bit too unknowingly and then bringing in a bull when we already were having lack of pasture issues. These are all hard lessons learned and so finally having that huge leap in fencing to get them across the driveway will be a giant step in our cattle goal. This pasture will be part of a series of pastures that will put the cattle into the woods, where they can clean up the woods for us and eat all the free food that waits for them. They will even root out the scrubby stuff for us and the woods will be so much nicer after they do this work. This is work they will love doing! It will be amazing to see them working the woods, it’s been a long term goal that is finally just about here!
Could these paste tomatoes be more beautiful? These are San Marzanos. Amazing for pasta sauce, bbq sauce, ketchup etc.
The other day, I was trying to figure out exactly when I would have time to cook down oodles of tomatoes to make sauce. Even though the plan was to use paste tomatoes this still requires a cooking down time, just not as long as with other tomatoes. We are getting some cooler days but most are still pretty summer-like and so heating the kitchen isn’t exactly the thing I want to do. I always cook down tomatoes in the late summer when it’s hot, but now that I was told the simple secret of freezing tomatoes whole, it’s a game changer. I thought the goal of freezing of the tomatoes was that the skins slip right off when they thaw. Still true, but additionally the thawing process allows a lot of the tomato water to drain off (which will be saved for veggie broth), which cuts down on cooking time and fuel use. I went ahead and cut the tops off the tomatoes and froze them in a large bag that I kept flat in the freezer so they didn’t freeze together. Then I will thaw them, slip the skins off in one easy piece and drop them all into a colander with a bowl under it to catch the tomato water that comes out of them. Not only does this mean they are on the stove less time, (using less fuel), but the freezing of them means that I don’t have to do it in late Summer, when the tomatoes are ready, it could be an early cool fall day when it feels nice to have the burner warming up the kitchen. In my little kitchen, this was a big deal on many levels. It even gives me time to work on other veggie processing, right now, because I can put off the sauces until the produce season slows a bit in Fall, after pumpkins and apples are over.
Other things going on, here on the farm in the last few weeks included…
Chicken butchering day! We had our daughter, hubby’s brother, and our neighbor to help. It went really well, processed 15 birds in about 6 hours, not including clean up. Much, much faster than when we did 6 birds last year in the same amount of time!
Finally our good old girl Shadow had her baby. This little girl is much smaller than the little bull we had born here on the farm recently. Mama seems to be taking good care of her. Her name is Eloise, a twist on the name Louise…(Think back to the Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “My Shadow”) This was a poem my Sister and I loved as kids, so thanks Sis for suggesting this name!
We had another good flush of Shiitakes and I dried a lot of them, after we had eaten our fill. I do think shiitake mushrooms sauteed in butter are an incredible flavor, so earthy, rich and delicious, there is really nothing else like that taste.
While our grapes vines could look about 100% better if we found time to work on them, they still yielded a good amount for grape juice. This isn’t like the grape juice from Sunday school, promise. We did make a commitment to pruning them properly in March and putting in posts, after the frost, to get them strung up properly.
The Garlic will all be cut like these today, and stored in a netted bag. When my sister and I went on an amazing trip to Maine some years back, I brought back a netted bag from the Moosabec Mussel company. I will store the garlic in this. Oh how I wish I had some fresh mussels that I could use this garlic with to make an amazing Maine dinner. I have to go back there someday, it was one of my best vacations ever, Sis and I have fond, fond memories of that week!
Finally, we had a great time at our neighbors farm party. This was a bit of a farm tour he was giving to guests. The food was wonderful, pastured pork, amazing salsa, delicious salads, great beer, lemonade and other snacks. I even was served lemonade, by an attentive and adorable, 5 year old server:)
Now? Back to veggie work.