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.



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!

Sometimes it takes extra hands and heart

February came in like a very muddy Lamb. Our driveway is squishy and sloppy, the chicken eggs are muddy, and the cattle are excited by the warm temperatures but are wondering where the beautiful Spring green grass is that usually accompanies these warm temps. I don’t know where Winter went, it is mid February and I am not ready to give it up! Still hoping for more cool temps and even snow. It is just too soon for Spring yet. The buds on the fruit trees are going to get all confused and I don’t want it affecting our harvests, this Summer and Fall! Despite the fact that it is currently 60 degrees at home right now, while we are out of town meeting our new grandson, and that it will be in the 30s and 40s all this current week, when we return, this was the scene just two weeks ago… 

All this crazy weather that we are having doesn’t change the fact that Spring planning is top of the list these days. There are Shiitake logs to inoculate, seeds to pick out and start indoors, picking out chickens and figuring out where to find more garden space to accommodate us even better this year than last. I reviewed some of last years notes and am focusing on more quantities of what we need/want for the year of food, rather than on the unusual or trial items. I would like to grow enough potatoes, carrots, onions and squashes. I have to read up on how to keep my kale, collards, brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli safe, since I had a bad bout with bugs last year and lost a lot of these veggies. Last year apart from the veggies mentioned, we had a great garden, with loads of beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, onions, basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, potatoes and more. We had so many cucumbers that we still have fermented dill pickles in the fridge from last Summer!

While I am thinking about this, I am also looking back to last year. At this time last year it was a difficult time with Mom so ill. My family was wonderful. While I was frequently out of town, for a week at a time, over the course of most of last year, they picked up the pieces. They tapped the trees when I was out of town in February and March and foraged for Pheasant Back Mushrooms, and Morels in late Spring. As Summer came they made sure not one sour cherry went to waste and while the green beans went crazy in late June, my daughter was freezing them as fast as she could. Sometimes it takes more hands to get things done, and I felt the love deeply as I saw how they honored the homestead and my hopes and pulled together to get things done. Last year was a long year. It was difficult, and it was life changing. It cultivated new depths to relationships as we all worked though it together with Mom. This is the first year that I can’t tell Mom about my Spring plans, Summer harvests, and Fall pig butchering, she loved listening to all of it. Sigh. She is so missed.

In other news, I attended the Garden Show recently and learned some details about Straw bale gardening. We will experiment with this. It seems that if you follow the prescribed method you can’t really go wrong. Well that’s what they said anyhow. I am not ready to invest my whole garden in the method, but think I will start with the Dragon Tongue bush beans. I don’t like putting bush beans in the garden because they use up so much space. This is why all other beans I do are pole beans, but we do love the dragon tongues. Pole beans require much less squatting while picking too! Oh and on an amusing note, I will grow mostly yellow beans, I decided the green are too hard to find and the yellow ones stand out so nicely in the green foliage. Hmmm, less squatting…easier to find…seems like someone is accommodating the garden to their age, lol!

I hear often from people, who find out that we do not buy much at the store… “don’t you get bored of the same food all the time?” We have freezers full of pork, and beef, all the eggs we can eat, some senior hens that will be stew birds soon, and a large variety of garden produce, cider and juice and neighbors that are always willing to barter. As I put this dinner on the table I thought, nope, we never get bored




This pizza was called “roll with the punches pizza”…

I prepped all these great foods from the freezer for pizza, and hydrated the mushrooms (the mushroom broth from hydrating them went into beef soup the next day). I was well prepared to make these pizzas.


The dough was perfect and so I got started. Suddenly, i realized that each time I looked at the oven it kept saying 100 degrees. It took me a minute but I finally got it that the oven just wasn’t working. I was just way too prepared for these pizzas and I was not going to give up! I decided that I would try cooking the pizza dough in my cast iron pan on the stove top and then put on the toppings and slide it under the broiler because although I couldn’t bake , it still worked to broil.


The pizzas turned out so well that I might just do it again this way!

The next snowy morning this was breakfast. No there is no boredom here, and it is for a couple of reasons. One reason is because we have so much food here, and because there is such satisfaction in the fact that it, for the most part, is all our food…food that we gathered, grew, raised, prepared, froze, dried, or preserved in other ways. It is an amazing feeling.