Our Food Year

September is when we start to really see the winter food coming together. Food growing season actually runs throughout the year, but in very different ways.

January is when the seed catalogs arrive, with their colorful covers and beautiful pictures of vegetables and fruit varieties. I save looking at them for the quiet that comes after the holiday season and this year I will sit by our, soon to be, beautiful new fireplace to look at them. Choosing new varieties and comparing garden notes is always fun. I am getting better at taking garden notes, thanks to a farmer friend who enlightened me. It’s also the time that I look at the chick catalogs and make choices for our meat birds and new layers. January also, brings a bit longer days and the Spinach that is in the mini high tunnel begins to wake up and grow a little faster, by March it is looking beautiful, given that the climate inside there is entirely different than outside the tunnel. February and March is tree tapping season. Although I do it on a very small scale, our syrup needs are not frequent, so it is all we need. Mid-March is seed starting in preparation for the summer garden. I start more plants than I need, in part to be sure I have enough of what I want to have, but also to sell some plants so that I can cover the seed costs. March and April are busy with tending to the seeds, re-potting them into their next size up pots, as they grow, and also enjoying the last of our cool weather, grey skies and cozy time. April is also when our meat birds arrive. This requires lots of attention. The more attention they get, the lower the chick losses. Over the last 7 years, I have only lost a couple! Their temperature must be properly regulated and they get fresh water intermittently all day. This is easier to do when you only have 40 birds. If I had a couple of 100 birds it would be much harder to tend to, especially their sensitive issue at 3-6 days old, which requires getting very personal with their care and cleaning! Mid May is time to clean up the garden and prep for planting. When May comes to an end the garden plants are in, and the chicks (our meat birds), have moved to their big outdoor coop and have left the confines of our garage. This is always a big YAY moment, to regain the use of the garage. May is also Morel mushroom foraging time, often we find pheasant back mushrooms and wild ramps as well (these taste a bit like garlic and onion put together). If there is abundance of these, I dry them for later use. June is generally a quiet time, and it is the last quiet time till October! August is time to plant winter spinach, radishes and carrots in the mini high tunnel, which we cover in plastic in October. August is also the time when we process our meat birds, here on the farm. This year for the first and hopefully the last we took them to a processor because of the building project we are involved in, there just wasn’t time to process them here. July through early October is gardening, canning, dehydrating, freezing, fermenting and of course lots and lots of delicious cooking with fresh vegetables! This year, if it is ready in time we will also add root cellaring to our storage methods. December brings to an end, the pig raising year, and at any given time during the year we process 1-2 highland cattle based on their readiness.

October until February is the reward, in my mind, for a long gardening and food preservation season, allowing more time to read about new gardening, preserving and cooking methods. Now that I have learned pressure canning, I use this time, also, for stocking the shelves with soups and broths, and stews. Canning really heats the kitchen up, so this is the perfect time to do this. Also, finally reading a bit of fiction. I love this time of year. This year it will include a fireplace and so I am looking forward to it even more!

These onions finally dried enough, and with the help of my daughter, they are strung and will be hung tonight in the basement and moved to the root cellar when it is completed.

These potatoes have been stored carefully in boxes and will have to be looked at weekly to be sure one hasn’t spoiled. I guess it’s like the old phrase, “one bad apples spoils the bunch”.

These beans are now frozen in 2 cup portions for serving this winter.

My outdoor refrigerator is filled with vinegar pickles, pickled peppers and some fermented pickles. They last a surprisingly long time in the fridge!

The corn is also frozen in 2 cup units.

Some of the tomatoes were monstrously large this year!

Tomato puree in jars for the shelves. This will get used in soups, stews, pasta sauce, and possibly for making more BBQ sauce this winter.

Fermented tomatoes with garlic and basil. This is a new technique, so the jury is out yet. The recipe says to take the tomatoes and the garlic out of the brine and puree them for a fresh sauce. Fingers crossed this works!

I think I have finally found a good, thick salsa recipe. It could have been a bit spicier but I can amend that when I open them, with a bit of cayenne.

We have been eating tomato salads nightly! They are so good. Tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, herbs and a bit of Italian dressing.

Veggies, veggies and more veggies!

This is a progress shot. We actually have a roof and shingles on it now. It is great to see a roof on, and things are drier now, but I have to say that the beautiful trusses look prettier without a roof!

Breakfast for dinner is always good! Everything on this plate is from the farm. Even the dried sprinkled pepper powder and foraged Lamb’s quarters is from the farm. I never get tired of taking stock of my plate and thinking about the food year that went into it.

Fall will be here officially just days from now, however, when I see an orange pumpkin it’s as good as here to me.

Late Summer and Signs of Things to Come!

Hard to believe that so much of the Summer has gone by without a post since mid June! I guess we have been busy! It was a great year for Currants! We moved the currant bushes into the confines of our high security garden, and finally we have Currants. This garden is fenced from deer, but also is covered on the outside with chicken wire, so there are no rabbits or other small critters in there. Additionally, I netted the bushes so that even the birds were unable to get at them. They are so pretty. They will become Currant jelly (when it gets cool enough to dare heating up the kitchen), and I will save some for adding to a special Wild Rice dish, I love, this Winter.

Meet Haddie. She was born in the hottest of weather, but is doing great. Her Mama is our most protective Mama, making vetting the calf trickier but we have only had take care of the calf once so that has helped. Haddie is doing quite well and is darn cute too!

Although it has not been a great tomato or bean year at all, there is enough to eat fresh. I may have to buy beans and tomatoes for bulk processing from a local farmer. If I can’t grow it myself, I rely on the area’s great local organic farmers. My poor Brussels sprouts, got ignored while I needed to help with family matters…but they still tasted good!

Beautiful, beautiful salads. We appreciate them so much. We do get simple spinach salads through most of the Winter and in the earliest of Spring, because it grows well in our double layered mini high tunnel garden. Summer salads though are a totally different ball game! We are, for the most part, seasonal eaters so we enjoy and appreciate these amazing Summer salads for the short time that we have them! Summer food, and Winter food are very different here.

Plants amaze me. How all that info is packed into a small seed, and how it produces so much food from that tiny seed. Then more amazingness when you look at the perfect little packages that Mother Earth has created for her beautiful works of art. I can’t get enough of this picture!

Pickle season has begun in earnest!

The red onions are not ready to harvest yet but they are close. Yesterday I harvested the yellow onions and found these mushrooms had naturally fruited due to some evenings being cooler. This variety of Shiitake is called West Wind. It’s been fun getting to know the different varieties and how they respond at different times of the year.

We had a special occasion here the other day. It was Hub’s parents 61st anniversary and his Dad’s 88th birthday. Lots to celebrate! These bread knots always look so pretty for serving. The buns were made out of some of the dough since we were out of bread, and there wasn’t time to make a loaf with all of the party cooking.

I tried to re-create a cake that the birthday boy had described from his boyhood, and hopefully I came close. It was a lemon cake with lemon curd filling between the layers, topped with a vanilla frosting with lemon zest. The Calendula flowers made it so pretty and summery!

As the work continues on our addition to our home, these trusses (4 of them) finally got finished. They were a TON of work, literally and figuratively! Hub’s worked with people to learn this craft and although it was very, very hard work, in very, very hot weather, he loved learning this skill. He has always wanted to do this! Hats off to these guys for their fine craftsmanship!!

Sunset over construction.

These High Bush Cranberries, are my sign. I watch them from early Spring till late Fall. Their color is an indicator of things to come. As Fall gets more near, they begin to blush with color. October will turn them a brilliant red. I’m a Fall and Winter kind of girl, so the color of these berries make me think about cool weather, hot coffee, soups, stews and cozy warm blankets.