Almost Summer

It’s funny how I don’t realize how much the garden has grown until I see the comparison to it a month ago! The pic below this one really shows the difference. I have started to harvest a bit of kale, collards and chard. Not sure who the little pest is that has been feasting on my swiss chard before I can get to it, but I did manage to get some before the little bugger! Other things are doing quite well, it just might be a bad chard year.

I’ve been adding a little to my herb garden each year and it’s starting to come together nicely. Oregano, Thyme, Chamomile, Rosemary, Calendula, Basil, and cutting celery. I am hoping to add more to this garden by digging up some wild plants and transplanting them here, such as Motherwort, Marsh Mallow, and a few others I have found.

MINT! I have tried growing mint for years, and it’s never enough. People say not to plant it because it will take over everywhere, which is actually what I have hoped for but it never happens. I get a small amount each year. This year though I started a lot of it from seed and finally it is looking pretty good and spreading which is just what I wanted.

PIGS! We picked up our two feeder pigs and these pigs are pig L and pig M. Introducing Lyla and Mabel. They are adjusting well, and are now out on their first pasture. We keep them in their small area till they get to know us and know that we are the food providers. This way when they are out in their pasture we can get them to come to us when we bring their feed bucket to pour into their bowls.

Ground Ivy, Creeping Charlie, Gill Over the Ground. These are all names for this plant that I have harvested and placed in this jar. Most people know it as the ruination of perfect lawns and call it Creeping Charlie. I prefer to let it grow. It is a good for the bees and now I learned a new use for it. It can be used in salads, but here I am making a tincture out of it. I filled the jar with vodka to cover the plant matter and let it sit for a while and then strained out the plant matter. Tinnitus is a condition that many people have that causes you to hear a humming, ringing, or other sound in the ears when in a very silent room, where no other background sounds can be heard. I have read that a tincture of Ground Ivy can help this and since we are both somewhat bothered by this problem we thought why not give it a try. Who knows if it will really work for us, but it can’t hurt to try.

We have been having a VERY stormy Spring, and the skylines have been dramatic. I love that dark blue sky, filled with constantly changing, cloud formations.

Pheasant back mushrooms. They are not as flavorful as other mushrooms we forage for, such as Morels or Golden Oysters, but I found if you dice them and sauté them in butter till a bit crispy they are great on a salad. If I was a vegetarian I would call them mushroom bacon bits! These particular pheasant backs are a bit large and on the older side, but on the other side of this stump, there were some small young ones I harvested.

Ready for the dehydrator! These are Shitakes and Morels we harvested this Spring. They are all dried now, and ready for Winter soups!

Pickled Asparagus are a real treat and pretty darn great in a Bloody Mary. These will be saved for Winter as well!

I made bagels once and I didn’t do a great job on them, but I think I have the knack now, and these did NOT disappoint! It’s nice to have them in the freezer and take out a few at a time. I have done this with buns as well, so now our freezer always has these items at the ready! When we have a cool day I bake more, saving a few for fresh and the rest in the freezer for another day.

I found out that making Za’atar seasoning is quite easy, and now I finally have a use for the Sumac berries I foraged last year! I ground the sumac berries and then sifted out the seeds. There are various recipes for this but the base recipe is Sumac, Thyme, Toasted sesame seeds and salt. There are other additions such as coriander, ground fennel, cumin and cinnamon with marjoram in some as well. I learned that you can make a paste of it with olive oil and brush it on breads before baking, or add a bit more olive oil to it and use it as a dip for breads, which we tried last night and it was fabulous.

Speaking of foraged items, this one here is one of my favorites to add to tea mixes. It is pineapple weed, which as I understand it, is the wild form of Chamomile. The tiny yellow cone shaped flower smells like pineapple! I thought I wasn’t going to find much this year, but on a walk, I hit the jackpot! Now, I have loads of it to dry for tea this year!

I’ll admit, this walk I had to push myself to do. It is Gnat season here, and they are bad! They seem to have about a 2 week run of just being awful and this walk was me against the bugs. The view, however, was very pretty on this muggy “almost Summer” day.

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.