Between Seasons

Currently it is snowing and underneath the snow is a fine layer of ice. No April fool’s day, its the 3rd, this is just plain old Midwestern Springtime. A day ago I was collecting sap and it was running well, and today I was doing the winter thing, making soup and hot buns to have for dinner.

The cattle are happy in any weather and they have been mugging for the camera. This little fellow is Splash, and below is his Dad, Scotty, everyone has been soaking up the sunshine that we had so much of last week.

This time of year there is little green for the chickens to find to eat. We are looking forward to Spring and Summer, when the birds will start out on grass and we will have nice orange egg yolks again. This day though I got the lucky text from my neighbor who farms micro greens. Often he has trays of the them that are not usable, either because he cut what he needed or they got too tall etc. He filled the back of my car with trays for the birds, and I left him with eggs. The birds were thrilled, and my kind neighbor was happy with the eggs.

This picture goes under the category of…sometimes you need more help. You reach a point in life where you want to keep doing what you are doing but you find it getting harder to do. That is when it is time to upgrade tools so the machines can do the harder work. This new unit will make hubs jobs infinitely easier. Looking forward to my driving lessons when things warm up.

And speaking of getting older…we go through so much of this golden broth!! We are firm believers in the benefits of bone broth for the joints, and so I make this much about every couple of weeks. I make it mostly from our stewing birds we have in the freezer. It is such rich and delicious broth! I know I have mentioned this before but it’s become an integral part of our routines, and so it continues to pop up in my posts.

Each year we hope to learn a few new things to add to our list of homestead skills. This year we expanded into smoking meat. We have so far smoked delicious ribs a few times, brats, pork hocks, that were great in split pea soup, and even a side of salmon from a local who fishes in Alaska. This past weekend though we went for the biggie. We pulled out the two pork bellies we had been scratching our heads about how to properly prepare. We had great guidance from someone with experience, and he coached us well.

Ready for the cure….

I rubbed the cure on the bellies. Then they went into the fridge for 5 days.

Day 5 they got rinsed and then put in the fridge to dry for a couple of hours. It was then smoked for 2 hours.

… and here is our uncooked bacon after it’s been smoked. It turned out really well. We enjoyed every bite. We have some tweaks to do to lower the salt a bit in it, but we are very satisfied with it! A new skill learned!

As the season struggles to show off it’s true colors, I found myself poking in places just to see a sign! Here it was, a sign of encouragement from my Rhubarb, showing me it has full faith in the season! Looking forward to rhubarb crisp already!

This will all look so different in just a matter of weeks!

Bubbling soup, and a crackling fire…

I cleaned up from a simple dinner of grilled cheese with delicious 5 year local cheddar and homemade soup. Then I sat down, with a hot cup of Ginger Lemon tea (this is new for me, never have been a tea drinker) which I really like, and opened my computer to work on Quickbooks for my business. My intention was to get all book keeping done tonight. Then I started thinking about the garden and then pretty soon Quickbooks was off the desktop and i started working on my garden list. While I was pausing to think about what else to add, I realized how quiet the house was and that all I could actually hear was the simmering beef broth on the stove top, the crackling of the wood fire downstairs, and an owl that was just down the hill from the house. Nights on the farm are very quiet. This sparked yet another of my, multiple time a day moments, where I just feel so grateful, and so lucky and so happy to live on our hill, and be able to do what we do here. It seemed like a good time for a blog post, so now work and the garden were both off my desktop.

We’ve been wanting to have a “farm meeting” before Spring hit, so we could talk about animal and garden plans etc. It just kept not happening so on our most recent drive to see my folks, we had our farm meeting in the car. I of course hadn’t thought of this idea before hand so all my perfectly organized notes were no part of the discussion unfortunately. We did pretty well though and I am excited about all of our new ideas and plans.

We confirmed a previous passing conversation about not having new Chicks on the farm this year. We have gotten Chickens in the Spring for the last 3 years. We had pigs the first 2 years and then not last year, so each Spring we do things a bit differently. Last year we raised 50 birds for the freezer and 8 new hens. This year after talking it over we have decided to not get new birds. We still have the layers from the year before in a different coop and run and we decided we will let those birds do their thing in the cow yard and be free ranging birds. They are not our main layers anymore, although they do lay, and if we were to lose a layer, which of course we don’t want to happen, I sure wouldn’t want it to be one of our current layers, who have another whole year of laying. This will be a good experiment. Additionally we realized that if the older hens range than we can move the new layers into the old layers pen and this will free up the chicken area in our permanent coop, to be a well fertilized garden. This will be new garden space, and since it is completely fenced in, I will let all the pole beans climb up these fences on all three sides. This frees up space in my other garden where they were last year. In the Fall when the younger layers head into this area, the things planted there will be done and the chickens will enjoy cleaning it all up! We also made a decision that this year will be a pig year, we will get 2-3 feeder pigs, same as last time, Large Black Hogs. So this covers the pig and chicken plans for Spring.

Lastly for animals it brings us to the Cattle. We are pretty sure by an incident that occurred recently that we will likely have calves in September. Our original 9 cattle ended up as 8 when we sold a calf, then 6 when we processed to steers. Now we are at 5 and the decision is that one of our two last steers will get processed in the Spring and one toward the end of Summer. This will leave us with our 3 mama cows and our bull. We had been worried about having calves and not having enough pasture to support the animals, but now that we have thinned the herd, it is a good time for calves. We will have a huge new pasture open in the Fall, that will give us endless grazing for our small herd and will be wonderful to finally see happen.

In garden news:

We will now have 3 gardens! The mini high tunnel that is in use right now will be where I start all my greens early, and it will keep the bunnies away too. The big garden will be extended a bit and now I have the chicken yard to plant in too, this will help provide some of the extra space I will be needing this year. We also discussed fencing the big garden which would be a big job but would be helpful for years and years, I am really hoping we can get to this.

In other random news, we are seeing loads of Eagles, and I am loving it! These were feeding on a deer on near the road, we turned around to go back for the shot!

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I worked on another loom project. This one for my west coast daughter. We recently visited and I brought it with me. It turned out looking like this.

black and white mat

Naturally I have to bore any reader with my newest ferments. This includes my first true Krautchi. Well it’s real Kimchee but I used regular Cabbage so it is Krautchi:)

all new ferments

Finally, it seems Spring is coming early so my daughter and I…

bucket cleaning…washed out the buckets and got to work…

sap collection

We rounded out this weekend after tapping the trees with a wonderful family dinner with fish we caught ice fishing, a veggie dish with red peppers, green and yellow beans, and broccoli, our bartered and roasted potatoes, some Krautchi and a bowl of Strawberries and Blueberries for dessert. Pulling all this colorful and pretty produce out of my freezer amazes me every time. This dinner was like summer with all the veggies and fruits. Finally we played a new game. This is saying a lot because I am a total wreck at learning games, but I learned it and now officially love playing the Settlers of Catan. All four of us liked it, mostly the three of them were in amazement that I could play it;) It was a great farm weekend.