Definitely Fall, finally.

I remember when starting our journey into homesteading that everything was new. Each season held a new foray into learning, and of course I continue to learn daily. What is different now is that the rhythm of it all has settled for us. The rollover from completing the last processing of food, which is upcoming in the form of squashes, and pumpkins, becomes the time to focus on covering the greenhouse for Fall and Winter. It’s definitely time to get the basement ready for starting up the wood stove, and for hubby to bring around wood, for the fire, to the back door. During the Winter it’s time to look at indoor projects, of which I have a few on my mind! Right about end of February early March it is tree tapping and seed starting time, followed by planting and well, you get it. It’s cyclical like all else. The rhythm is comforting, expected and each part is enjoyed.

The last month has been busy with harvesting, canning, drying and freezing things. After thinking I planted too late and buying some bulk tomatoes from a nearby farm, suddenly it got warm in September and in came my tomatoes with vigor!

We have loads of tomato sauce, tomato basil soup, bbq sauce, ketchup and loads of…

…roasted tomatoes!

The rest became salsa!

Anything after that became…

…tomato chips! Great for munching on or crumbling and  sprinkling on salads and other dishes.

The Goji’s came in beautifully this year. Since they are sweet juicy but always with an odd bitter aftertaste, I thought I would make a jelly that is a mix of Goji and Blueberry, the sugar changes that bitterness. Two super foods rolled into one! There is great nutrition in these red berries. I also picked my MIL’s Aronia berries. That is another incredible super food! Mine have been stunted in growth by the hungry deer around here. I have to cage them to keep the deer away, but that is another project.

The Elderberry liquor turned out quite well. I thought maybe I had a cold coming on the other day, so I indulged in this and…

…Mint tea with Pineapple weed and some Mullein also all of which were gathered this Summer. The Pineapple Weed takes a long time to collect a jar’s worth! I don’t know if I was getting a cold or not, but I felt comforted that night, and better, for whatever reason, the next day.

A recent Fall day’s collection. Love how the palette changes as the season progresses.

We tried straw bale gardening this year, on a limited basis. I didn’t do the 12 day prescribed routine on the bales quite right but we did get some potatoes, beans and carrots out of them. My carrots in soil are stunted and bent due to the soil being hard but the three larger carrots came out of the bales and they are the best and straightest carrots ever, from now on, all carrots go in bales. I will have a large carrot harvest next year, based on this finding!

The cattle are acclimating nicely to the cooler weather, they couldn’t be happier. Highlands like the cool. We have three little ones now, and the cool weather has had them running and playing together, so cute.

First really cool night, I had popcorn on my mind. Still using up the last of the popcorn our neighbors grew and gifted to us. Looking forward to many more cool nights this Winter.

Learning to Biscuit and Other Things

Like many things I try out here, often some just don’t go as planned. Currently that would include my garden full of green tomatoes which leaves me wondering if I will have a lot of pickled green tomatoes or maybe get lucky and end  up with loads of sauce. Should have planted earlier! Everything is behind, it’s also been a strange weather Summer. Everywhere.

Biscuits are another thing they don’t go like planned, for me. I’ve never been a biscuit maker, but I’ve always been a biscuit maker wanna be. Mind tend to turn out like little hockey pucks. These biscuits are the culmination of 3 previous failures. Each one was a little bit less of a fail then the time before, and this time they are cheesy, buttery and downright passable. Seems to me if the pioneers could make biscuits, on the trail, beside their covered wagons, that I should be able to make a biscuits in my kitchen, and so, I will keep working at my biscuit technique till I conquer the biscuit by making an amazing, flaky delicious biscuit!

What else is going on around the farm and in the kitchen…

This is Jewelweed.

These are Jewelweed ice cubes made from fresh Jewelweed steeped in water, then frozen into cubes for minor burns and stings.

This is chopped Jewelweed after it has infused in oil.

This is Jewelweed salve. It is good for skin irritations, poison ivy and more. It was made by adding some beeswax to the infused oil. I have been thinking about Winter gift giving and this is one of the items I will be gifting.

Here is another project I am working on for gift giving. I am hoping to make quite a few table runners by Winter gift giving time. I am also working on knitting scarves. I never got past the scarf stage of knitting, but what the heck, people need scarves right?

And back in the garden…

Our potato buckets worked well this year. Next year I would like to do a very long row of buckets. The buckets help reduce pests and to harvest the potatoes, you literally kick the bucket over and this is what you find.

Some of them were huge!!!

The grapes this year are coming in oddly. Some are ready on a bunch and some aren’t while some are dried and falling off. This meant that picking could not be by the bunch as I usually do, but picked one grape at a time. Our orchard is not a big one, so this is possible to do, but more time consuming then the other method, so it was nice that I had help this day!

These beautiful grapes went in the freezer for a future batch of Mead, which is a honey wine. Our honey on the farm isn’t quite ready so I will keep these in the freezer until we get our honey and then start a batch.

The Elderberries are producing huge clusters of berries.

These Elderberries will become Elderberry Liquor…

This year I am making a lot of Elderberry Liquor. More Winter gift giving ideas. At this point this bottle is just vodka, a bit of lemon peel and elderberries. It will eventually be strained and sugar will be added. This and time will yield a delicious Elderberry Liquor.

The kitchen has been busy. Since the tomatoes are coming in not in huge loads, just 5-10 at a time, I have been making small pots of sauce, and freezing rather than processing boxes of them at once. I sure hope eventually I will be processing a lot. Here on the stove I have a beef mushroom soup going with our shiitakes, and broth from our beef bones, a tomato basil garlic soup, all from the garden, and a pasta sauce with our ground beef, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms and onions. The stove is always working overtime this time of year.

As much as I try, our meals still in some way include some food that we didn’t grow, raise, or forage. This meal here though was collards, potatoes, and beans from our garden, and ham from our hogs with some high bush cranberry jelly on top, from last year’s high bush cranberries. Only the olive oil and was not from our farm! Score!

I am grateful every single day that I can do this, and that I can be surrounded with such beauty in my life. This basket of Elderberry, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Echinacea, Chamomile, Cherry tomatoes, Lavender, and Mint was from a short morning walk.

Beautiful.

 

Lucky calf

Our cow Jill had a calf the other day. The cows were all down in the front of the farm, and it’s a hill climb to get back up to the paddock area. Unfortunately, she crossed the stream before the calf was ready to navigate it, and he ended up in it. It is not a wide stream, more of a creek, but it’s spring fed water so he started shivering pretty quickly. It was a bit of a trick to get the baby out, because Mom was not ok with us approaching her babe, but there was a brief moment where she turned to check out the new hay and hubby climbed down in, and scooped him out of the water and heaved the baby on the bank with Mom, and when she turned around, he was back on our side of the bank. If only you could tell them that you are trying to help, darn it. He was fine once he was out of the stream, because it was a pretty nice day, so all in all we all got lucky, mostly lucky that we knew it happened. It could have happened while we were not near! The next day the calf could fairly easily navigate across the the water. Amazing that they can do that at one day old!

What was the lesson learned? We do recognize the signs that birth is coming in the next 24 hours, what we didn’t do though was check a little T and A if, you will. Now on we will check teats and butts (using a more polite word here)  twice a day. Had this been done, and we saw the signs, we would have brought them up to the paddock for the birth and away from the streams and wilder terrain.

It’s always good to recognize the lesson learned.

Here they are safe and up in the paddock area.

The gardens are on the verge of exploding. The cukes and beans have been doing this for a while but tomatoes will be soon and will keep me very busy! I don’t want to waste any of them, and I have about 15+ plants!

We have a square fenced in area for our birds in the Winter. It is covered on top with netting and it is perfect for them in the Winter. Their coop is attached to it and in the Winter their pop door leads them right to this. In the Summer they use the back door and range, so the fenced in area becomes a perfect garden till about October when they will need it back. This set up leaves me with three 8 foot walls to raise beans on in the Summer. The beans plants are producing beans like crazy. I’ve already frozen about 30 dinners worth of beans for 2 people, and the blanching continues:)

Love these Dragon Tongue beans! They are, believe it or not, incredibly juicy! They are super refreshing to snack on while picking in the sun.

Blanch, freeze, repeat. These are ready to be bagged for the freezer.

Found a new vinegar pickle recipe that I LOVE. Last year I did mostly fermented pickles, but I’ve come full circle and see the virtues of both kinds. These are nice and spicy!!

Hubby found another Chicken of the Woods Mushroom. At top left is the full mushroom he picked, bottom left shows them dried for later use, and on the right they are ready to store in the pantry.

This is a Curtido. A spicy El Salvadorian style fermented kraut. Such a nice way to change up kraut. It’s delicious!

Fermenting to me is a feast for every sense. It’s beautiful to look at, it tastes great, it smells delicious, and occasionally not so much during some particular stages of kraut fermentation, lol. The vegetables are beautiful to the touch with many textures, and finally, the satisfying bubbling noise that I hear, that tells me the ferment is doing it’s thing. All this, and it’s so good for the gut, I know I am doing something good for my body when I eat them.

 

A pretty post, as a tribute to Mama, it’s been one year.

It’s been one year since Mom has been gone. She would have loved these pictures, she loved hearing about my garden and what was going on in my busy kitchen. She shared stories, over the years, of her Grandmother making Sauerkraut and Watermelon Pickles. Today, I made Sauerkraut and darn it, I just wish she was on the stool at the counter, with coffee in hand, talking to me while I prepared it.

So today, no descriptions, this post is just pictures.

Pictures Mom would have loved.

Oh what I would give for one more cup of coffee with her…

Love you dear Mama.

Summer Food Processing, New Pigs, New Pastures, and Heat!

It is really feeling like Summer, with high temps and it’s accompanying elevated humidity. I am not a Summer person. While I love the produce Summer provides, and how pretty and lush it is outside, I am counting down till Fall begins. Summer is beautiful, hot, sticky, and filled with hard work. Once Fall and Winter hit, all of the bounty from the Summer stickiness becomes comfort food, and it warms the kitchen and fills the house with delicious smells while the wood stove warms us. To me, this comfort in Fall and Winter give Summer it’s worth.

This is a Purslane ferment with garlic and last year’s dried cayenne peppers. Purslane is a super healthy food, and I am lucky that not only does it grow nicely and wild here, but it kindly grows right in my garden! Since Purslane is so healthy, fermenting means that we can eat it all year instead of just Summer. The carrots were from our local farmer’s market. I have been itching to ferment, and my garden does not have too much to harvest yet. Next to the carrots is an Echinacea Tincture. It has leaves, buds and flowers of the Echinacea plant (Purple Coneflower). This is covered in vodka and will sit till Fall when I add some of the roots to it, once the plant has gone dormant. Once ready it will get strained and this tincture will hopefully help us when cold/flu season comes around. The last jar on the right is Spruce tips in sugar, for Spruce tip syrup. It has a ways to go as all the sugar has not melted yet.

I was ready to feed the carrot tops, from my farmer’s market carrots, to the chickens, when my friend said, “do you know you can eat them”, well NO was my answer. So, I looked up some recipes and made something delicious. Thank you friend.

Here it is, carrot top Pesto! I used carrot tops, basil, almonds (it’s what I had left from my granola business I just sold), garlic and olive oil. It’s absolutely delicious!

First harvest of fresh broccoli:)

These are collards, stacked for chopping. They went into the freezer for Winter.

My kitchen table, in the summer becomes my drying area. Here I am drying some red clover to add to what I have collected already, it is good in tea mixes. Also Mullein in the front right to be used for colds/coughs. Pineapple weed (wild Chamomile) in the back right will be wonderful in tea, and smells so much like pineapple! I pick off the flowers and dry them. In the picture I had not done this step yet. There is Yarrow in the back left, which has many uses which I am learning about now in my readings, and lastly a few Mullein flowers. I had quite a few Mullein plants around here last year, but I am not seeing as many this year. The yellow flowers, take a long time to harvest as only a few flower each day on the very tall stalk. They are often used for helping ear infections, by making a medicinal oil from them.

The grapes, despite our poor training for them, look like they are growing well. Last year our grape juice had so many varieties in it, it tasted nothing like store grape juice. It tasted like grown up grape juice, with a really nice flavor to it.

Piggies! We just got these adorable little girls. They are more friendly than their counterparts last year, and cute with their little spots!

This was a big morning at our farm. Hubby has worked so hard to get things fenced in the front of the farm where we have wonderful grazing land. It was a big job! This was their first day down there, and they couldn’t have been happier. They have a stream to water at, and lots of grass to eat, and tree branches to browse. We are pretty happy to, because they have just begun what we have wanted for a while, they are going to clean up the area. When they are done it will be beautiful. We know this, because they cleaned out our woods already, which are now more beautiful than ever! Highlands are amazing cattle.

Now I am off to give fresh cold water to our 45 younger chickens, our 11 two and three year old chickens, and to two cute little piggies. They will all feel refreshed from this, however, with 93% humidity, I will not. Shower time.

Garden Touring

One of the things I love about our farm is the layout of our gardens and livestock. It is similar to the old small family farm, which really was a goal of mine. These farms didn’t specialize in large scale livestock, instead they focused on raising a varied diet that could feed a family year around, as well as, hay to support their livestock in Wintertime, and to raise enough extra here and there to trade for things that were needed that weren’t raised on the farm. Our layout of the gardens, the pig area, the cattle paddock, the chicken coops, and the mushrooms is based around the home site. While we do have a small orchard area, we put in, that isn’t by the home site and of course many forage foods all over the farm, the rest is focused close by with the exception of the cattle grazing the hillsides on the farm.

Our “big” garden, it is not huge but is very productive. It currently has cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, swiss chard, lots of tomatoes, and peppers, plus onions and, what will be, a good supply of cucumbers.

This garden near the house has Elderberry at each end, Currants, a Goji, Lemon Balm, Sage, Spearmint, and some Rhubarb that is just outside the edge of the photo.

These are our grapes. There are a variety, including champagne, table, seedless, and a few others. Next year training the grapes properly will bump up on the triage list.

My first Aronia bushes. Starting small scale. Aronia’s are said to pack a higher antioxidant punch than blueberries and even the acai berry. Someone let me harvest theirs last year and I made Aronia syrup. Hopefully we will get berries this year on these new bushes.

This garden already had a nice violet patch so I left that and added lavender, 3 small rose bushes and in the front 3 chamomile plants (in cages so the chickens won’t dig them up).

Our Raspberry garden. Yes it needs clearing out, there are old canes to pull. It’s on the agenda this weekend. Also on the agenda is picking some of the young raspberry leaves for tea this Winter.

This is our blueberry bed. It’s a bit of an experiment, we have been amended the soil to be the appropriate ph for them, but blueberries in our zone are new for me, I like to start small and learn about things before I try a larger amount of plants.

This is our mini high tunnel. In the Wintertime it has plastic on it and grows Spinach year round, although slowly during the coldest months. It sits on top of a hay bale wall all the way around. This makes the tunnel tall enough for me to walk in for planting and harvesting. In the Spring the plastic comes off and here it has lettuce, some overgrown Spinach that got pulled shortly after this photo and some beets that just went in, as well as some lettuce that is providing us more salad than we can keep up with so far.

Our neighbor shared some of his rhubarb plants with us, and so this is a newly planted area.

This year we moved our garlic to a new bed up the hill behind the grapes, and near to the compost pile, squash garden and melon garden.

 

Potato growing in buckets. The buckets are food grade, and it helps to prevent potato beetles, as they can not climb up the smooth sides of the buckets.

Seems funny to weed a compost pile but since we have so much growing on them, I thought why not? The front left of the photo shows a nice potato plant. All volunteers and all appreciated.

Mushroom area. These logs are pre-inoculated for next year. I am hoping to sell these logs next year to backyarders who might want logs that quickly produce after purchasing, rather than plugging their own and waiting a year. Hoping these will sell well on a pre-order basis next year, it will also be a good way to get people out here to see what else we are selling.

We are excited now for a big move for the cattle! Hubby has now expanded the grazing areas to the front of the farm where we have a stream and great valley land, it was a vision of his for a long time, and now the fence lines are ready!

It will be a very special moment seeing them wander down to the valley together for the first time.

Here is a well deserved, homemade Kombucha, toast to our 2017 gardens, may they be productive and successful!

Playing catch up with some before and after pics

I did post this picture before, but now that it is done, I wanted to show the before and after pictures together.  This was made from garage door panels. As I had mentioned they seem to be a commodity that garage door companies are happy to give away. Each panel is insulated, which helps a lot in our climate! The new birds are doing well in their new coop. Next step is biting the bullet and opening their attached run so they can range.

These logs were ready to plug with shiitake spawn. I am hoping to sell pre-inoculated logs next year as an addition to our farm sales. It takes a year for the logs to fruit so if I sell them next year, they would be prime to fruit for the buyer.

Here are the logs, I hope to sell,  that will rest till next year.

The little Morel looked like it was in a fairy land, it was too pretty to not be remembered. The season started very slow this year since it was so cold late into May, later it did start to really pick up. I happen to live with the Morel Whisperer so it’s not me finding these great hauls.

I meant to post this a while back. This beef jerky was made using 3 large round roasts from our Highland Cattle. It took a fair amount of time, but turned out great. I love that this dehydrator has the fan on the back of the unit so you don’t have to rotate trays. I wish the jerky had lasted longer, I’m afraid it was too good!

This was sad. One of our young birds got pushed off the plank by another bird and damaged it’s leg badly. It was definitely in pain so we decided to be kind and cull the bird. I didn’t want to waste any of it, I felt badly it was pushed off, and got hurt. It was important to me to take this small bird to the table, and I wanted none of it to go to waste. It was enough for both of us to have delicious chicken sandwiches for lunch, and a few cups of broth. It wasn’t what I planned on doing that day, but sometimes the day goes in unexpected directions.

This was the view from my “blind”. Yep it was my first time turkey hunting, and I sat in my $5 pop up blind from a yard sale. It was a beautiful night, I got to practice some calls, and heard one turkey. Good enough.