Tag Archives: garden

Weekend with the Grands

This is our first solo weekend with the grandkids that are living with us now.  During the week, one of them is in school so we still outnumber the other one.  Our Saturday morning tradition, even most winter Saturday’s is to go into the town and have breakfast at one of the local restaurants then walk over to the Farmers’ Market to support the farmer’s that brave the cold with their meats, breads, and cold storage vegetables.  As we are only two weeks from the full season return of the market, there are still only a few stalls, but more today than in the past weeks, including a new addition to the market with heritage pork.  Turns out we know that farmer, so we supported her with a purchase of the thickest pork chops I have ever seen.  I hope I don’t overcook them.  They are thawing for a meal in a couple of days.

We took the back way home and let the kids see all of the brand new calves in the fields around our farm.  This brought us back to speculating about how many we could raise, how much it would cost us to have our field hayed when we kept the hay instead of giving it to the farmer for his work and whether we could make a small profit by raising a small herd for our own meat and to sell maybe 4 or 5 head each year.

Once back home, some chicken chores to add straw to the coop and hay to the extremely muddy run were done while the kids play outside in the sunshine.  I want to let the chickens free range, but we just planted some seed in the garden and it is only fenced with two strands of electric which doesn’t even slow the chooks down.  I don’t need them digging up my freshly dug, weeded, and seeded beds, or the newly transplanted raspberries, so they will have to remain penned until daughter returns.  We will then expand the garden and string plastic poultry fence around the vegetables and let the girls wander again.   Or perhaps we can just make poultry netting tunnels over the beds and let the chickens keep the weeds and bugs at bay between the beds. The egg production is up, having gotten 18 eggs in the past two days from the dozen hens.  I am hoping that one of the girls gets to feeling broody soon, and I will let her sit a clutch of about 8 eggs to hatch.  This will be our first year allowing this and hoping that we will be able to cull some of the older hens and the cockrells that hatch for the freezer instead of raising purchased meat chicks.  If this doesn’t happen, I will buy meat chicks later in the summer and raise them until the fall for the freezer.  Freedom Rangers or Rainbow Rangers only take about 11 weeks to freezer size and that is what we raised last year and found them to be an excellent table bird.

The seeds we started indoors are beginning to sprout.  The flat is on a heat mat in a south facing doorway with a grow lamp.  The Roma and Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and the Tomatillos are showing.  So far the 6 kinds of hot peppers are still buried, but we hope to see them sprout soon too.  Four of the varieties of peppers there are only a couple of plants and they are experimental for us heritage varieties.  The others are of many pots of Jalapenos and several Habenos for salsa and chili tomatoes to be canned this summer.

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Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day, so perhaps we will take the kids for a walk on the Huckleberry Trail or a hike in the woods if it has dried enough.

Next Saturday we will all drive to Northern Virginia and pick up the eldest grandson for a week too.  We will have a house full of younguns to keep us young or run us ragged.

Busy Days

Another beautiful day.  It was supposed to rain according to yesterday’s forecast, but this morning, it had changed and was a mostly sunny day with only the lightest of sprinkles.  I grabbed half a dozen raspberry canes and put them in water as Son #2 would like some of the ones we pulled up.  As soon as I can find some cheap pots, I will put them in soil and prune them to give them a chance to establish roots before I can deliver them in April.  That was done early when the chicken chores were being completed.

Before Daughter and Mountaingdad got up, I had made two new soap recipes, one with Oatmeal, Lavender buds, and Black Walnut powder.  This will be a great body scrub soap once it cures.  The other is a Jasmine Green Tea soap.  Neither of these soaps have any essential oils or dyes, so they will be good for those with sensitive skin.

After lunch, we experimented with a recipe for Beard Oils for my Etsy shop.  Daughter’s husband uses Beard Oil and we thought they might make a good addition to the shop. The lotion bar molds arrived yesterday, so a new batch of Hand Butter bars were also made to add to the shop.  The lotion bars, Hand Butter bars and Beard Oils can all be personalized with a customer’s favorite scent or scents or made unscented.

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Daughter and I planted the Lacinato Kale, Purple Top Turnips and a 4 X 4′ bed of Daikon Radishes for kimchi this afternoon.  They are the last early spring seed.

Effort, Disappointment, and a Delicious Surprise

Mountaingdad and I began our morning with a group of others from our county to form the core group of Preserve Giles County to oppose and fight the proposed pipeline.  We met for two hours, introduced ourselves and I found that this made me very emotional as we each spent about 5 minutes giving our name and why we were there.  It was the first time I have introduced myself to these people and talking about the fact that I was born here, my grandfather was born here and though I grew up in the eastern coastal Virginia, retired here.  That our home is a labor of love, Son 1 spending two years of his life doing carpentry and stone work on our house. I installing wood siding, beadboard, cedar and doing flooring and baseboards.  That we are invested financially, physically and emotionally in the home we built.  The meeting was productive and will move on to a point where we feel we are fighting as a group, not as individuals with a common goal.

The disappointment came when I realized that of the 5 1/2 quarts of broth that I made with the turkey carcass, even though they were chilled overnight in the refrigerator with plenty of head room in wide mouth jars, all 4 that I put in the freezer, broke the jars and all 4 quarts of turkey broth are ruined.  The remaining quart and a half were used to make gravy for turkey we have eaten since Thanksgiving.  To try to salve a disaster, the remnants of the thighs and the meatier parts of the wings that weren’t really done enough to suit me are currently simmering in another 3 quarts of water.  The meat will be made into pot pies and casseroles, the broth frozen in vacuum sealing bags this time for use in soups and future gravies.

The delicious surprise came just a few minutes ago as I went to collect eggs and do a quick survey of the garden plot after last week’s 20 something degrees and the wet snow.  The row cover over the garlic had blown free from one end and I wanted to re-secure it.  There was kale that had perked back up, not a lot, but certainly enough for a meal, maybe my favorite African Chicken with Hot Greens.  And a berry bucket of turnips that weren’t large enough to harvest a few weeks ago.  I’ll bet they are as sweet as honey after last week.  We will enjoy them within the next day or two as well.  The chard is gone, the wormy cabbages went to the chooks with the turnip tops that were too wilted to try to cook.  With any luck, we will get one or two more meals of kale, then I guess it too will be pulled for the chickens or heavily mulched with hay for maybe some spring regrowth.

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The chooks laid just enough eggs while the kids were here to provide us with a delicious breakfast each morning and to make the pumpkin pies.  Yesterday there were only 3 and today 6.  It seems that the dozen hens are not really going to be laying enough for me to sell many this winter, but should keep us fulfilled.

Love our life on our mountain farm.

A Crisp Late Fall Day

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The morning is crisp, actually right around freezing right now, but the sun is warming the day back to normal fall weather after our Arctic chill of the weekend. Even on days like this when the sun is out, the little alcove on the south deck is toasty, sheltered from the NW breeze. The view from the porch swing is stunning, though most of the leaves are gone now and the trees bare until spring. It is a great place to sit with a cup of tea and watch the chickens free range and look out for deer and turkey or listen for the hawks call.
The morning chores are done, fresh hay in the coop, chickens fed, their water and the garden hose thawed. I guess I should bring it in for the winter though that makes chicken chores more difficult as I then have to haul the 5 gallons of water from the yard hydrant to their run.
In spite of the shortening days and frigid nights of late, I have another broody girl. She has plucked her breast feathers as the weather chills and I fear for her winter health. She isn’t being allowed to sit eggs, I am removing them several times a day from the coop instead of just at lock down time. I’ve tried removing her repeatedly during the day, set a bag of ice under her, removed her to a perch at night, blocked off her preferred box (she just moves). Today I will dip her backsides in cold water if the temperature rises enough and put her in the meat bird pen alone for the day.
Romeo has nearly finished his molt and doesn’t look nearly as ragged as when he arrived. His neck feathers are glossy and darker than the hens and his tail feathers are coming back in. He isn’t as beautiful as Cogburn was but still a fine looking rooster and calm and nonaggressive toward people.
The greens in the garden perked back up, a mess of them and a roasted pumpkin are on the menu for tonight.
The reknit of the sweater is progressing and last night I ordered yarns for grands sweaters for Christmas.
It looks to be a good first half of the week, perhaps I’ll finally get the garlic planted or there won’t be any next year.
Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – October 24, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Our internet issues seem to be finally resolved, many months and many mistakes later, we are back with our original cell provider and our original internet/phone provider.  The lines have been repaired, the speed boosted as much as it can be boosted given our physical distance from the nearest booster from our small community cooperative telephone/internet provider.  They also provide cable TV service, but their HD is not HD, so we opt to receive cable elsewhere.  Life was so much simpler with an antenna, a house phone line, no internet and no cell phones; cheaper too.

The sweater was ripped out and restarted using a yoke pattern instead of a raglan pattern, the sleeves have been put on waste yarn and the body is being worked slowly.  This pattern is from one of Ann Budd’s formula books, so it should fit.

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The twisty rib pattern at the top is interesting.  Hopefully it will block into a nice yoke for the sweater that is otherwise very plain.

As the sweater has already gotten too bulky to want to tote around with me when I am the car passenger, I finally started the mitts that are made of Unplanned Peacock Superwash Merino in a colorway named for me as it was dyed especially for me to match a skein I purchased from her several years ago and from which I designed and made Ruby Hat (http://goo.gl/yAfQV) and later Ruby Scarf (http://goo.gl/uzjTFo), both free patterns on Ravelry.  Ruby Hat is my favorite hat and has its own story, but that is for another day.  The mitts are also being made from one of Ann Budd’s formula books to wear with the hat and scarf or just around the house at night when my hands get cold.  They are the perfect portable pocket project for the car.

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I am frequently amused at questions I get from folks that I know have grown up their entire lives in this rural county.  Today, the phone/internet installer saw my chickens wandering about the yard and ask me very innocently if my hens were laying now that the weather is cooling down.  My response was yes, except for the one who was molting.  I could tell from his expression that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and he said his egg production from 10 hens was down to only a couple each day.  I asked him how old his hens were and most of them are only about a year and a half old, so experiencing their first molt this season, thus his lack of eggs.  He also wasn’t feeding them any calcium, not even giving them back their own shells.  He left educated by the city girl with a ziplock sack of crushed oyster shell to free feed his hens and a promise that once their feathers were back in that he would start seeing eggs again.  He also was surprised that Son#1 and I could kill and process our culls and meat birds.  He said though he could shoot and dress a deer, he wasn’t sure he could do a chicken.  Our flock is enjoying their daily freedom to dig in the gardens, to look for bugs and tender blades of grass.  When we need them safely away from the dogs or driveway, I just go out like the Pied Piper with my little cup of scratch that I shake and they come running and follow me back to the safety of the electric fence.

The pumpkin vines are dying back more each day and revealing more of the winter squash.  I thought that only the Burgess Buttercup survived and that I didn’t get any Seminole pumpkins, but realize that it is a half and half mix, except the pumpkins for the most part haven’t turned tan.  The ones that I picked and put on the picnic table are beginning to turn.  The wormy ones get split with a hatchet and thrown into the chicken run for them to enjoy.  A side benefit is that the seeds are a natural anti parasitic for the chickens.  The peppers and tomatillos survived the cold nights predicted in the last post.  I am letting the remaining fruits mature until we are threatened again and I will do another harvest.  The last batch was made into another 4 pints of Tomatillo/Habanero sauce, the hottest batch yet.  Maybe I should change it’s name from XXX to Insanity.  I sure can’t eat it, but Son#1 will love it.  The Farmers’ Market last week had many vendors of apples.  I came home with another peck of mixed crisp red apples and realizing that they would not stay crisp until we finished them all, I used about a third to make another batch of Apple Cranberry Chutney (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-Ja), using 1 cup of honey instead of brown sugar this time.  The shelves are full of goodies even after having taken two crates of canned goodness to Northern Virginia on the last two trips to return son and grandson.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm and continuing to gather knowledge to fight the pipeline.

 

Garden’s Swan Song

We are past our “Frost Date” and have had mild nights except a couple of weeks ago.  The garden survived those two nights with row cover fabric draped over the peppers and tomatillos.  We are expecting two nights in the 30’s tonight and tomorrow night and nothing is going to be done to protect what is left.  If the plants survive, great, we might get a few more tomatillos and peppers, the greens will be fine for a while.  If they freeze, it has been a good year.

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To prepare, a harvest of 5 types of peppers, a basket of tomatillos, a handful of bush beans and two golfball sized turnips were brought in.  The Jalapeños were pickled into two more pints for winter.  The bell peppers sliced and frozen except for a few to stuff tomorrow.  The Anchos have been put in the window sill hoping they will turn red and can then be dried for Enchilada sauce.  The tomatillos and habeneros will be cooked down with onion and garlic for more of Son #1’s favorite XXX sauce.

With the garden waning, the chickens get to visit, eating bugs, weed seed and scratching around leaving chicken fertilizer.  When they aren’t in the garden, they wander around the orchard, the yards and out into the fields, but not too far from the house.

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They are healthy, producing plenty of eggs each day and live a good life.

On Saturdays, we generally go to town, have breakfast at the local diner then shop the Farmers’ Market.  We came home with some beef and pork for the freezer, a peck of eating apples and some carrots and onions.

Between our garden goodness and the Farmers’ Market take, we will eat well.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

 

It Can’t Be Over

Warm weather and garden season that is.  When I arrived home from last week’s wanderings, the woods were beginning to wear jewels.  I had seen a bit of the dark red Poison Ivy climbing the trees and the barest hints of color elsewhere, but by this week’s end there is much more color on the mountainsides.

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The Maple aka, the Tick tree as you can’t walk beneath it without acquiring at least one.
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The photo doesn’t show nearly the color the eye sees.
So I conceded and pulled out the fall banner and mini banner, the fall wreath, tablecloth, napkins and kitchen towels.  With no kids in the house and no Trick or Treaters come this far, I only put a few decorations out, a real pumpkin on the porch, a resin one on the front table, a ceramic ghost and ceramic lighted jack-o-lantern on the bookshelves.

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The table set with a large dried bottle gourd, a smaller gourd I painted at Garden Club years ago and a Burgess Buttercup squash from the garden.
So I have conceded, sort of, but I’m not ready for the early frost/potential hard freeze predicted for our region on Saturday night.  Today and tomorrow, I will harvest Tomatillos and peppers, drape a sheet over the peppers tomorrow eve in hopes that we either miss the frost or only have a short light one.  Sunday I may be able to find all of the Buttercup squash, Seminole Pumpkins and sweet potatoes, but I’m just not ready yet.

This is when I wish I had a portable hoophouse that could be put over the two beds that are still providing, hoping to extend their season by a few weeks.  Maybe next year.

Today as the rain comes in, I will can applesauce and apple slices.  Yesterday I started the cider vinegar. Tomorrow, we will bundle up and go buy meat for the freezer, leaving space for the 15 chickens that will be processed next weekend.

A Touch of Fall

This past weekend was to be a staining weekend.  Son #1 and Grand #1 came in on an early morning bus Saturday, but the day dawned as many have lately, overcast, foggy and high humidity.  As the fog cleared, it was still overcast, so the staining was put on hold yet again and since he was here to work, we tackled the garage door that hasn’t worked properly in a couple of years.  We have had to hold the button constantly to raise or lower the door and the electric sensor was not working at all.  This rendered the remote in the car useless.  We made a trip to the nearest hardware store, in the next town since our local one went out of business and purchased a circuit tester and a few odds and ends.  He was able to isolate where power was no longer reaching the sensor and with a bit of rewiring and door adjustment, it now goes up, comes down gently and reverses when it hits an obstacle or the light beam is broken.  The morning harvest sat on the counter throughout the day.

Yesterday was similar weather, but he managed to get the garage doors caulked with me following as clean up before he and Grand caught a bus for home.  Once back to our farm, I tackled the Saturday harvest and made and canned 10 pints of Tom Tom Salsa, though I left out most of the lemon juice as hubby felt it was too tart for his taste.  Yesterday’s afternoon’s storms brought a significant temperature drop.  This morning dawned quite cool and still cloudy.

Each time I can, I get my exercise hauling empty jars up to the kitchen and full jars back down to the root cellar.  The shelves in there are quite rewarding now as they fill with jars of tomatoes, chili tomatoes, salsa, pasta sauce and XXX hot sauce.  The drying shelves are filling with garlic and Burgess Buttercup Squash.  There are many more of them ripening in the garden and I can’t get to the sweet potatoes anymore until the squash and pumpkin vines start dying off.

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As I was taking Son #1 to the bus, I asked him if there was a good way to reinforce the bottom of one of the pseudo orange crates that I purchased years ago at Michael’s Arts and Crafts so that I could load the full jars to the basement and for bringing canned goods and produce to them when I make my trips to their house.  We started purchasing the crates when he was in college and his library that he hauled from dorm room to dorm room to apartment were shelved in them.  Each semester, adding a few for new texts and other acquired books.  When I moved across the state to our new farm, my handthrown pottery, china, and books were packed in similar crates for the move.  Some of those crates have the bottom slats stapled on at an angle, others straight in.  I have feared having the bottom drop out of one.  He suggested taking a 1/2″ thick board cut to the width of the crate, drilling pilot holes and screwing the boards on the bottom across the slats.

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One of my projects this morning was to reinforce one of those crates, then to prepare and can 11 pints of pasta sauce and a pint of Pickled Jalapeno peppers.  My past two days have produced 21 pints of tomato products.   The garden is still full of tomatoes and peppers, but the jars are getting scarce.  I haven’t been able to locate any on Craigs list this time of year and I don’t really want to buy more in Big Lots or the Grocery.  I will can using the last 5 pints and last 11 quarts then start freezing bags of tomatoes.  The freezer us under utilized this year, other than chickens.  Unless we end up buying apples to pare and freeze, there will be plenty of space for quart or gallon bags of frozen tomatoes.

Today as I was boiling a pot of water for peeling the pounds and pounds of tomatoes, one of the burners on our flat top stove failed.  I had mixed feelings about a flat top stove when we bought our appliances 7 years ago, but for it to match the refrigerator and dishwasher, that was my only choice.  I guess we are going to have to get a repair estimate, but this isn’t good timing with canning going on and with estimated taxes due.

Tom Tom

The garden provided 5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 pounds of tomatillos, a dozen or so various hot peppers this morning. I quick decision that salsa at $5 a pint and large cans of pickled jalapeños at under $2 a can, that the peppers are better used in salsa than just being pickled. Another round of canning commenced.
The tomatoes peeled and diced, the tomatillos diced, onions, hot peppers and garlic chopped. Eight pints of salsa in the making.
Today’s creation is Tom TomSalsa.
Tom Tom Hot Salsa
5 lbs tomatoes peeled and diced
2 lbs tomatillos husks removed, washed and diced
1 large onion chopped (2 cups)
10 cloves garlic minced
12 jalapeño pepper minced
1 habanero pepper minced
1 Tbs oregano
2 Tbs cilantro
1 Tbs pickling salt
1 cup lemon juice
Place all in a heavy nonreactive pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into clean, hot pint jars, seal with new lids, tighten bands and water bath process for 20 minutes.
Yield 8 pints

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The shelves are being filled with garden goodness.
The pullets are laying more each day. We are getting 7 eggs most days from the 10 pullets and 1 hen. Broody Girl went into molt as soon as she quit being broody and hasn’t laid an egg in more than 2 months. I’m not too happy with her right now.
The Rainbow Ranger chicks at not quite 4 weeks old already weigh about 2 pounds each and have seriously outgrown the brooder. They are in a large dog cage with an attached run in the garage and get as much daytime outdoors as weather permits. They foul their cage daily. Can’t wait until they can go out to the chicken ark and run to live out their lives until mid October.

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Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

No Space Left

This morning’s tomato harvest pushed me over the edge. There was no more counter space to put them. Tonight the deck herbs can return to the deck and I will have plenty of collecting space, but not this morning. Since I was making pasta sauce, I prefer to pressure can, so down came the big canner, out came the instruction book for a refresher, out came the big sauce pot, chopping board, kitchen knives and ice water bath.
Tomatoes were removed from the freezer, peeled under running water and put in a large glass bowl to thaw. Fresh tomatoes were blanched for peeling, chopped and set aside. Onions, garlic, carrots, summer squash all chopped and sauteed til tender. The tomatoes were added to the pot with seasonings and simmered. Just before canning time, a few ounces of tomato paste were added.
The sauce was ladeled into 10 pint jars, just what my canner will hold and amazingly just the amount of sauce made and all processed for safe keeping.

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The next batch will be diced chili tomatoes, the canner being a fixture on the stove top for weeks to come. A batch of plain tomatoes will likely be made, more salsa and pasta sauce until the tomatoes are all used up. We will eat well this winter.

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Ten perfectly sealed pints cooling on the counter.