Elderberry everything, and an accidental FB cow sale!

The Elderberries we put in three years ago have been a great addition to the farm. Not only do they smell wonderful in June, but they have so many uses. Since some of the branches hang over very low, I use those for gathering the flowers. Once these low clusters begin to fruit they would end up on the ground with the added weight. The rest of the beautiful, flowering clusters are left to become berries. Elderflower tea has many healthy benefits, and one of my goals this year was to gather more plants for Winter time tea. My pantry now has a new section, and in it are many types of herbs I grew and also foraged for over the course of late Spring, Summer and Fall.

This was gathered and dried last June.

This is an elderberry liqueur. First I made an Elderberry Tincture, using Elderberry and Vodka, knowing some of it would be used as a tincture, and then the rest, with the addition of sugar and time, became Elderberry Liqueur. The berries were picked in August, when I made the tincture, and in October I started the Liqueur which was ready at the end of November. I will, and have, use some of these as gifts.

This is Elderberry Syrup, that can be added to sweeten tea, when a cold is coming on, and throughout the cold. It offers vitamin C, an antioxidant punch and helps to strengthen the immune system.

 

Right now I am starting to have flashbacks to the movie, Forest Gump, here. You know, the many ways to prepare shrimp, according to Bubba. Well, that aside, this is another way I use Elderberry. I keep berries in the freezer and just toss some into my kombucha for the second ferment, and I have enough frozen elderberry to last all year.

This last batch of Kombucha (2nd ferment or “2f”) turned out quite pretty.

Outside things are getting pretty quiet, but we had an interesting cow sale right after Thanksgiving.

This is Maggie and she has a new home.

We were needing to move Maggie off the farm and were were not finding a buyer for her locally. We didn’t want her Papa mating with her in the upcoming months and so we were facing no choice but to use her as beef. I posted, on a homesteading FB page, that I was wondering if we would want to do the butchering differently because of her size, and was hoping for some guidance. I thought maybe people would have different recommendations for the cut sheet since she wasn’t full grown. THEN, someone posted a comment that they would like to buy her! This person lives in Missouri, and well, there is always the concern that you don’t know them, and will they show up and follow through with the deal. Well yes they did! They were here on time, and were very kind people who were very excited to take our Maggie home with them. The loading went perfectly and they were off. It was amazing how it all worked out!

In other outdoor news, although the garden is long gone, I did get in a few last Fall tastes before it was completely over…

These are fried green tomatoes, made from the last batch of green tomatoes that came in from the garden. They were delicious!

Also with the last batch I made some salsa verde. I will definitely make this again!

The mini high tunnel is still providing us a limited, but greatly enjoyed, variety of vegetables. The picture below shows what I brought in yesterday.

Parsnips, carrots and spinach. The eggs just got into the picture since they came in, in my bucket!

This photo was about a day. A pumpkin baking – chicken broth making – kombucha bottling – bread baking day, but it was more than that. Since selling my small granola business, I am finding that there is even more joy, in cooking and processing food, now that I am not in a hurry when I cook or bake. I am able to take more time with the process. In my previous life, if you will, it was about being efficient of time, because there were so many things to do with jobs, a house and kids. Now the time I take, which in the past I would have thought to be inefficient, I see and feel differently. I am seeing a lot of things differently as I am getting older, and entering a new phase of life. I am loving having the time to feel and enjoy the processes, of everything I do. We hear a phrase often these days, that comes from the recent popular book by Marie Kondo. The phrase is, “does it give me joy?” She is referring, of course, to more tangible items, but in general, there is something so peaceful about finding what gives you joy and fills you up. Not sure when the “golden years” start but this time of life is golden already. The children are off and doing well, and we find ourselves alone together on this farm a lot. It absolutely gives us joy and I feel grateful everyday, and to be honest, I’d say many, times in a day.

Topping off the day, was an absolutely stunning sunset.

The even more amazing thing was that we had another showstopper of a sunset the next night!

What I learned from my tunnel garden, again.

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What I learned from my tunnel garden this year is the same as what I learned last year. Plant earlier! I planted earlier than I did the year before but still not early enough. These goodies could have been much bigger, on the other hand the tiny carrots couldn’t have been cuter and tasted so sweet. It got too cold for it just before Christmas, so I pulled most of it out. It makes me realize that this really does work for us though. We extended the season for 3 months. I do have to get the timing right. I will start the tunnel August 1 next year. At that time of year the plastic is off the hoop and we wait to put it back on till about October. It is a very tiny space so I want to grow things that will have the most impact for us, so for this reason I will be filling almost half of the space with carrots, and most of the other half with Spinach (because it’s so hardy and good) and fill in the rest with Watermelon Radishes. The ones in the picture here, never had a chance to get big enough, but they can get very large, are delicious, and so pretty inside! Kale is also hardy and more so than Spinach but the system I have set up is such that I can not plant things that grow higher than about 18 inches. When it is really cold I pull the second layer of plastic over the plants, so they can not be too tall. (See the previous entry with photos of our tiny but mighty high tunnel.) It truly was fun to go out to the tunnel, in the cold and the snow and walk inside and smell dirt and see such pretty greens. The funny thing is that after the little harvest, the Spinach started sprouting back up again, when it got above about 20 degrees outside for a handful of days in a row, so who knows what may happen in there, maybe I will get some surprises.

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We have been enjoying some beautiful snowfalls.

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We had a wonderful family Christmas with our in-town family. Relaxing, delicious, and filled with thoughtful gifts that will keep us warm, well read, and fed.

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This year we didn’t put up a tree. I instead decorated my antique plant drying rack. I thought it was quite pretty, I think my family thought it was pretty, but not a tree. Next year I think we will have a tree, but this was fun to me. The ornaments hanging were mostly made by the kids and grands, with a few baby’s first ornaments included.

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The holidays equal cookies. While these cookies seem perhaps not as fancy as many Christmas cookies, they are the best butter cookies ever. The recipe was given to all attending my friend’s Mother’s service, at a small local church in a valley a few miles from here. The cookies were something she made for her family frequently. After the service the Pastor said, “You are all invited downstairs for Butter Cookies and Fellowship”. I like that there is a story that goes with these cookies.

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Our Holiday meal included a root veggie platter of bartered potatoes and onions, a gifted acorn squash, and our garlic, carrots, sage and rosemary, and a few organic sweet potatoes from the quick sell basket at our local market.

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It also included a standing rib roast from our Grass fed Highland Cattle. Here it is going into the oven, for one reason or another we didn’t get an after picture, maybe too busy eating?

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This was a tradition at my Husband’s family Christmas. Now his folks are snowbirds, and each year since Hubby has brought up the yummy Chocolate Steamed Pudding from his family Christmas, so last year after Christmas I decided I would get the pan and make it for him this year. Chocolate Steamed pudding with Hard Sauce. One cousin calls it heart attack sauce, but we all agree that once a year you have to say to heck with that and bring on Tradition! It was delicious, and insanely rich.

Other than holiday things….

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I first true successes with Kombucha. I have a very active fruit and honey ferment and I will try to do a second ferment w my kombucha you see here, and see if I can get some fizz this time! Scoby looks happy and healthy so far!

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I finally gathered all the peppers that were drying in the downstairs room. I didn’t realize I even had this many. I gifted some and still have a lot. I am looking forward to learning more about cooking with them, but in a way where the hot tastes good but doesn’t overtake it all. Haven’t learned that art yet. I wanted to thread them onto long strings but I unfortunately waited and now they are so dry, I don’t think it would work well. Just another reminder that timing matters.

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Last year I made a table runner for my West Coast daughter. This year I made place mats for my in-town daughter and her fiance. I was pleased with how they turned out. It is fun, and I love that the fabrics are either from our old sheets and clothes or from St. Vinnie’s, where they have huge pieces of fabric for $1-3. It definitely is the store I buy at most frequently for kitchen items, books, warm winter shirts for layering, canning jars and more. I never know what I will find there, but it is always fun exploring.