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.

Everything says Spring… well except for the falling snow right now.

The Midwest always will throw you a Spring surprise! It is currently snowing outside, despite the fact the lilac bush is in full bloom, and the violets, ground ivy, dandelions, morels, dock, day lilies, chives and more are all up!

This basket was from a few days ago. The day lily shoots, mushrooms, chives, 0regano, hostas, and garlic mustard made for a delicious Spring saute.

This year I plan to do a lot more eating of foraged foods. Last year I surely got better at it, but I did a lot of reading over the Winter and so I am feeling a bit braver in broadening my hunting skills in this area.

The cattle could not be happier. They have been dreaming of this day all Winter. Beautiful green grass and NO mud! Finally clean animals again, the mud was really getting old for all of us. Still no luck selling our young bull. We may end up banding him and finish raising him for beef.

More Spring signs. Our garlic is coming up very nicely!

…and another Spring sign. Last year when Hubby hurried to get the coop done for the birds, we swore this wouldn’t happen again. We also swore it would be the last coop. Fast forward to this year, because of some changes in the way we want to do the poultry here, he is building yet another coop, and once again the birds in the brooder are getting scary large and he is working as fast as he can. He learned about a new resource for materials. When people get new garage doors, the garage door folks pay to have all the old doors hauled away. Hubby has been picking these up for free. This coop will get covered in garage door panels. We will likely put barn boards over the panels, because garage door panels are not so nice to look at, but part of the beauty of the garage doors, is that each panel has insulation inside it, so it will help in the winter to keep the birds warm.

Meet my plants. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to start as many of my plants as I could this year. I seem to do fine at gardening, but I have always worried that I wouldn’t be able to produce those nice sturdy plants that I see at the garden shops, and I opted in the past to buy my starter plants or barter with my neighbor for his starters. I started early this year in the case that there was a fail. Well good thing I did. My first plants never made it, but I started over and feel like a pleased and proud new parent. I have surely given these plants more attention than they needed but I had fun doing it. This Summer I will learn about seed saving, and maybe someday, I will supply my own seed for most things, and start my own plants. This would be a big step forward, bigger than maybe it sounds like to others. Now if it would stop snowing, and sleeting and freezing I could think about planting this little babies.

Foraging finds on a rainy day hunt.

At 12 o’clock, and going clockwise: Pheasant back mushrooms found in the woods, day lilies from all over the farm, radishes from the tunnel, hostas from the front yard, morels from the woods, and in the center are dandelion greens found in the ravine.

Pheasant backs!

Spruce tips that will become Spruce syrup.

This mixture of sugar and spruce tips over time will turn to syrup. All I have to do is leave it in the window and strain it out when done. I have never done this before so it will be fun to see how it turns out.

…and finally, this one was a tough decision

I have mentioned in this blog about my small business that had a goal of helping to support some of our endeavors out here. I’ve just celebrated my 5th year at this small biz, and although I have definitely created something with local following, it just isn’t adding up to a future income as the next years go along. If I wanted to travel our 4 state region promoting it, put money into advertising it, and put enough money into the business that I can approach the bigger venues for selling I could maybe make a go of it. These are not things I want to do though, the last thing I want to do is spend all my time off farm traveling with my wares. It’s time to call it. Hoping to develop the small farm basket CSA I have always thought about and I look forward to exploring this option, but for now everything will be about tightening up the loose ends as I wind up this business. It will be amazing this year while in the farm busy season, to be able to focus on it, without also focusing on my small business. It should make all the food growing, animal care giving, and food processing go a lot easier. So here’s to no endings, just new beginnings.

Spring Days

Signs of Spring

There is so much newness in Spring. The baby chicks are growing before our eyes, lettuce is coming up in the tunnel, and the Spinach that made it all year is thriving and has the biggest leaves I have ever seen! My starter plants are doing well and the pond has come up considerably, in part because of some of the work we have done (we hope) and also because this is a wet time of year and so the inflow is heavy. Either way it looks so nice to see it filling. Also in the Spring we occasionally sell a Highland or two. This young bull shown in the picture will hopefully be sold this Spring. Oddly when I advertised him on the local page, people mostly were romanced by his nice hair, they wanted to hug him and pet him etc. Eye roll, hugging a Highland, ha, ha! Clearly I advertised in the wrong place, time to hit the more serious sale venues! All that said, Spring is a busy time, after the quieter months of Winter.

Another incremental step:

Each year I try to learn a new thing to make us more sustainable here. Last year I began learning to identify the many wild plants on the farm and their uses, both edible and the historically medicinal. While I continue to explore and learn more about this, I decided that this year I would learn to start my plants, but the more important flip side of this is that I will, at the end of the season, learn to save seed for the next year. That will be another important step. I have the Summer to learn this. So far my little plants are doing quite well, and I can’t lie, I am super excited about it!

I wanted, before Spring got too busy, to catch up on my freezers. It is about this time that I figure out if I used things too fast or too slow over the Winter. I did some rearranging in the freezer, and there it all was, the fruit my family picked and froze for me, so I wouldn’t miss it while Mom was so sick last Summer. There were strawberries, cherries, blueberries, high bush cranberries, peaches and rhubarb. My daughter was kind enough to come and help me make them all into various jams. We decided it to be a tradition now, we will make jam, not when it is super hot out in August but in the cool Winter or Early Spring. Also we ended up with 77 jars of jams and peach butter, and decided that from now on we will do the Jam thing every other year! It is exciting to have so many beautiful jars of jam, for gift giving, and of course eating.

More sign of Spring:

Foraging is back! I have been reading over the Winter and learning more names of plants and uses, and am becoming a bit more confident this year. This dish (above) includes our Shiitakes, dried foraged Morels and garlic scapes gathered one year ago in the Spring, and fresh Day Lily shoots, and Chives from this Spring. I love combining the seasons into one dish.

This has been a favorite all year… I froze so much tomato puree last Summer that we still haven’t used it all up. I discovered a quick trick for the easiest Tomato Basil Soup ever! After I run the tomatoes through my tomato press, I freeze it in containers. Then when I want to make the soup I run the top of the frozen tomato block under hot water to melt of the icy layer at the top. This removes a lot of water leaving a much richer tomato puree. This saves hours of “cooking it down” in hot Summer weather! The next picture shows what it looks like after melting off the top…

I just heat the tomato block, in a pot, and add last year’s dried basil, a bit of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil. Less then 10 minutes for Summery tasting Tomato Basil Soup all Winter! I love not having to cook it down in the Summer anymore! It won’t quite keep us in Tomato Basil soup till our tomatoes come in, in July, but it did get us clear through the Fall and Winter and part of this Spring. Next year I will puree even more, to last the whole year!

These colorful veggies are still getting us through till this Summer’s produce comes in, and they still taste garden fresh. These beans are still plentiful in the freezer and definitely will last us until we start picking beans at the end of June/early July. It’s nice to see the rhythm, of what we are doing, working so well.

 

Next on the agenda is inoculating the Shiitake logs. Checking things off the Spring list!

Dorothy was so right…”there’s no place like home”

We had a wonderful time with our family, out west. There is just nothing like holding your child’s newborn.  New Mommies are amazing, and the love affair between a new Mom and her infant is such a beautiful thing to be near. Spending time with their family and being part of this first week with their new son made for a very special week.

All that said, the farm was missed, and was such a welcome site after a week away.

Every single day is beautiful here, but each in its own way. The farm is so woven into my fiber that a week away leaves a small hole within me that can’t be mended till I’m wrapped in it when I return home.  Our first day back, each twig, leaf and pine needle was robed in glass, a beautiful gift for our viewing. This walk was was a cold one but felt alive and crisp, even with the constant cool misty rain that was falling.

Today  I will be getting my set up ready for starting seeds. I am excited to finally tackle this. I’ve always relied on my neighbor who often sells garden starts that he raises in his greenhouse. They are hardy and beautiful plants that give me such a reliable start for my garden. I generally trade him meat for these plants, but I’m trying to do things in a little bit more sustainable way each year, so I’ve decided I have to get over my fear that my starts won’t be hardy enough and the garden will suffer. Looking forward to learning from this and adding a new fold in our farmigami, if you will.

When I read lists of how to live in a sustainable way, I know we are getting there but there is always more to learn! Here is some of what we have achieved…

  • Grow and preserve vegetables and fruits
  • increase our fruits, by experimenting on a small scale (elderberry, blueberry, blackberry, grapes, red currant, plum, goji)
  • Raising Shiitake mushrooms
  • successful Winter tunnel for growing greens
  • Raising chicken for eggs (and meat)
  • Raise livestock for us and our farm biz (grass fed Highland cattle, Heritage breed, pastured pork, Heritage breed chickens)
  • Wildcrafting food from the farm
  • Trade/barter for what we don’t have
  • Cultivate new skills (can, ferment, dehydrate)
  • Making herbal meds (in the learning process)
  • selling our meat cuts, veggies and eggs, through our farm business (working on getting the word out to increase sales)

What we are working on or towards…

  • Saving seed for starting plants (hope to start at the end of this growing season)
  • starting an herbal medicine garden
  • Raise our own chicks (this one is a bit farther out, since we have never kept roosters past butchering day, here)
  • Learning to use our newly built smoker (hubby and SIL smoked some delicious cheese in it for a test run)
  • Hunt deer, rabbit, turkey – will be our first time hunting. We will start slowly with Spring Turkey hunt if we are able to get a tag for this hunt – they are hard to get.
  • Starting a very small “Farm Basket” type CSA, for a handful of local families, to help support the farm (grass fed beef, pastured pork, eggs, mushrooms, garden food, and herbs)
  • Work towards providing our own power (someday, unfortunately this one way is way farther out).

It is good for me to look at these lists this way, so I know where we have come from and what we are going towards. As the title, of this blog says, we are “incrementally stepping towards homesteading”.