Cool temps, Fall is settling in…

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These pumpkins were on my neighbor’s lawn, I had to stop and snap a picture, the orange was the most perfect pumpkin orange ever.

We went from t-shirt mornings straight into woolen cap mornings. The afternoons bring us highs of 78 and highs of 48 all in the same week. It’s that time of year. Just when you get out your necessary warm stuff, you wake up to a humid day. Honestly, this description could easily describe anywhere in the Midwest.

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This is what a typical catch of the day is like this time of year. The Acorn Squashes were a welcome surprise. They were growing in one of the pig’s rotationally grazed yards and so I kept them out of that yard till the squash matured.

grape juice concentrateThis grape juice is really a treat. It was a tiny harvest, but the nice part is this really amounts to grape juice concentrate so just a little in lemonade or water adds so much flavor.Everything the last couple weeks has been about food processing. This is a time of year where the granola business fills orders but doesn’t look hard for new customers, because it is a demanding time on the farm. Come winter, I will be looking to add customers and front burner the business but not in late August and September. This helps me get through the crescendo of the garden produce as it first ramps up and then explodes exponentially, as the tomatoes did this year. I have 36 pints of salsa made, pints and pints of dried tomatoes and have 40 pounds of tomatoes in the freezer to make sauce, bbq sauce and ketchup. This is an example of the explosion. In fact I have even pulled some of my plants and tossed them aside to get some cold crops in and they are fruiting right in the pile where I tossed them! In the past week, I have gone into overdrive, but I knew it was the last big push and I enjoyed checking one thing after the other off the list. Over the past week I have frozen most of the last tomatoes, frozen yet another 5 pounds of beans, dried many more apples, made large amounts of applesauce, dried 4 watermelons, and 3 cantaloupes, froze a nearly 10 pound chicken of the woods mushroom (shown below), made the last of the grape juice, made and froze pesto, and finally a giant bowl of cole slaw, that went amazingly with baby back ribs, the last of the pork from last year, and homemade applesauce that was still warm, mmmmm. What more could one want?IMG_1422Here is the Chicken of the Woods Mushroom. I was wary at first but after reading so many great recipes on the internet I figured they all lived to write about it. It is delicious. IMG_1430Here is the mushroom sliced for the freezer.IMG_1480How does one make homemade pizza sauce in a few minutes? Take a bag of paste tomatoes out of the freezer the night before. The next day take them out of the fridge and pour them out into a colander over a bowl. Then slip the skins off each one, they come off in one piece, and then with an immersion blender puree it and season it. I was very surprised to see how much water came off of paste tomatoes, I knew there would be some but it was quite a bit. This resulted in the sauce literally not having to be cooked down at all! The tomato water went into a broth, and it didn’t use hours of propane to cook down. This is a win win for sure. The thawing process does all the work for you! The sauce was delicious, tasted like pure summer. We had an assembly line and built oodles of little pizzas, with garden veggies on my amazing pizza stone, it makes such a nice crisp crust!zucchini chipsNow again, I might have had a bit too much of my own kool aid, but when I could can no longer, or had little more room for freezing, I started making things into chips, and a few people may think I’ve gotten carried away? Well I like them, and I made sea salt zucchini chips and eggplant chips as well as a seasoned version. I dried yellow zucchini chips as well, and green bean sticks too, although they tasted a bit like eating a mouthful of tiny branches, which felt like a choking hazard. These will be safer in soup.salsa makingI keep thinking it’s the last batch, but the tomatoes won’t stop pouring in, and you can’t waste them, right? I will be making one more batch tomorrow.Other things besides just the garden and kitchen are happening on the farm. We are butchering the last 9 birds this week. They have been put off a few times, and it has to get done. Then we will have all the birds down to just the winter coop, where they don’t mind at all on these cool mornings hanging out inside the coop. Translate: I don’t have to get up as early to let them out, which is pretty nice on chilly mornings.We will be going to visit a Highland Cattle farm in the area this week. The farmer is nice enough to show us his operation, especially his loading facility. He is very knowledgeable about Highlands so it will be helpful to talk to him and see his set up. We have been having conversations about the Highlands. What are our goals with them? We know we want to use them for land management. Do we want to raise beef? Do we want to raise calves to sell as growers, like we get our pigs as growers? See raising grass fed, grass finished beef is an art, really. It’s also a longer term investment, because without being grain fed, they will take 2 years or a bit more to be ready for butchering. We are learning about cool season grasses, warm season grasses, herd needs at different times of year, and about how much the quality of forage we feed affects the meat. There are many variables that affect how this type of beef will turn out and so until we learn enough, and get to a point where we know we are turning out a really great high quality tasty grass fed, grass finished beef we will just be feeding ourselves with the beef. We will have our first steer to the locker in late winter, and we will learn a lot then. He is not a big guy and Highlands are not large cattle at all as well, so we are not expecting a huge yield. The hogs, in contrast, are on the farm for about 7 months and the 2 we are raising for other people (that they have pre-purchased from us and own) will end up paying for our hog. They are easy keepers and you don’t even have to over winter them! This for now is the perfect balance and the system provides us both beef and pork. Since we are not selling the beef at this time and it is just for our own use, and since our hog sales are all pre-sold meaning that the parties own the animal, and we are not selling any pork by the piece we can do on farm kill and then transfer to a USDA butchering facility by their worker. I couldn’t be happier that the hogs won’t have to go through the stress of transport and of entering the locker and chute etc. So glad this is legal and we can do this. There has been lots to talk about and think about lately as we figure out our direction and model here on the farm. There will be much time for this, this winter.

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