Good Goals

I want to tell you that sometimes what you desire most is the hardest thing to attain.

I had a good therapeutic swing on my apple tree rope swing, after culling a chick that was weak and being picked on by his peeps.
What I see alternatively, is a beautiful property that we have poured our hearts and souls into and then the struggle of developing what we feel is an honorable, hardworking life style that is good to the earth and for the community.
With every joy there is a counter struggle to keep us in check with reality. Currently, we are complying with every governmental hoop required to become an agricultural property, operate a certified kitchen, raise chickens, have a farm market and a chicken processing area on our little.69 of an acre….and the bees and vegetables of course. The permit for the barn expansion is dependent on the land use change, that is as of yet indefinitely delayed in an office somewhere. The chicken growing in the coop cannot be processed with the equipment we purchased because the barn is not built because the change is not approved.  We did get approved for the provincial future farmers program which gives us the support to continue with the application process, which we hope in the end will help us achieve our dreams.
So, today I swing, I look at the planted vegetable beds and the running chickens and I pray for the strength to continue on this path. Our goal is good and our life is truly blessed in so many ways.
Today I swing and throw my head back to view the sky through the tree branches.
And Wilbert, the wild pheasant that has adopted our property as his stomping ground, ate my Dutchman’s Breaches. Life comes and goes and we roll with it. Thanks Wilbert.
Build a swing, plant something and get adopted by a pheasant…it helps sort out life’s little stumbling blocks.

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Wilbert
The end.
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Kombucha 101

Kombucha is something I have been wanting to try as it is reported to be healthy for you and such. I got a chance to attend a class one evening on how it is done, and got a lovely little Kombucha Mother to start my own brewing bonanza.

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New batch and flavor added batch ready to bottle

It is really a super simple thing to do, once you have the ingredients; organic cane sugar, organic black tea, chlorine free water (we are on a well so are good to go) , a Kombucha mother in 2 cups of brew and a one gallon jar. Everything can be found at your local bulk store or grocer except the mother in her mix. You will need a source for that so check out your local farm market, one of your crazy hippy-dippy friends, that homesteading Aunt of your friend from work you are always hearing about…someone has one, you just need to find them. I got mine from the people giving the class, a lovely couple with an organic farm nearby (Heart Beet Organics).

The magic is created starting with 2 cups of boiling water, place 4-6 tea bags to steep for 10 minutes then remove the bags and add 1 cup cane sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add the super sweet tea to the gallon jar, fill half way with cool water and add the mother and 2 cups of the last brew of Kombucha. Fill the gallon jar to within an inch or two from the top, cover with a cloth (coffee filter works fine) and secure with an elastic to keep out fruit flies and your cat (you just never know with cats).

In 7-21 days you have Kombucha. Be mindful that the longer you ferment the more sweetness you lose. Stop it when you like the taste. Mine went 14 days to get to where I like it, not too sour and not too sweet but just right for mamma bear.

Adding flavor is next. Remove the mother and 2 cups of brew for your next batch. Strain the Kombucha into another container and add your fruit or herbs. Let sit for 24-48 hours then strain out the additives and then bottle for another day or two. This creates more carbonation. At this point refrigerate and enjoy!

Note on the bottle to use, it must be a  bottle that can withstand the build up of pressure, a Grolsch beer bottle works great. A mason jar will not produce the carbonation you may be looking for. Fill the bottle to an inch of the top, cap and place in the fridge to slow further fermenting. Take care when opening, it will fizz over so have a glass handy or a sink or your mouth, whatever.

You can feed your Scoby with sweet tea and keep until later if you are not wanting a new batch yet. If you have multiple Scoby growths/babies you can make a Scoby hotel. Sounds cute but it is just a holding space to keep the Scoby alive until you need them. As this is my second batch I am not there yet.

Fermenting is addictive. It all started with a “couple” of wine kits, progressed to raw honey mead (awesomeness in a bottle), honey fermented garlic, sauerkraut and now Kombucha. I am very interested in finding a Jun mother Scoby, a ferment made with raw honey and green tea, to add to the collection of healthy, yummy, fun to make treats.

Go forth and ferment, my fellow enthusiasts!

 

 

 

 

 

Wax Fabric Wraps

Well, today is a sick day. Just enough under the weather to not be able to process numbers at work and after sleeping a full 12 hours, lazing around for the better part of the day I have just enough energy to attempt a long awaited project. Wax and pine resin fabric food wraps.

I have been intrigued for some time but just got the pine resin powder in this week. I think this looks fairly simple, even if a bit groggy.  Here goes the first attempt!

I got the instructions from Mommypotamus. I loved it when I saw it.

I used her ratio for different sized sheets of fabric but used coconut oil instead of Jojoba. No special reason other than it is what I had in my home making soap/balms arsenal. It seems to have worked just fine:

8×8 Sheet
2 teaspoons grated, packed beeswax
2 teaspoons powdered pine resin
1/2 teaspoon jojoba oil
11×11 Sheet
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grated, packed beeswax
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon powdered pine resin
1 teaspoon jojoba oil
14×14 Sheet
1 tablespoon plus 2.5 teaspoons grated, packed beeswax
1 tablespoon plus 2.5 teaspoons powdered pine resin
2.5 teaspoons jojoba oil

I made a 9×9 sheet and used the same ratio as the 8×8, still worked. I mixed the ingredients per sheet in a saucer, mashed them with my fingers and sprinkled them on each sheet.

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As for lumping on the fabric when heated, just heat it more. The pine resin takes longer than the wax to liquefy. Have some patience, for all of 10 minutes, OK?  Used a wide craft brush to even the  melted oils over the fabric, holding one edge in place with a wooden skewer as they want to stick to the brush.

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I then hung the fabric over a make shift clothes line. I happen to have an antique indoor retractable clothes line. You just never know when these things will come in handy! I love old stuff. Some string and a couple of nails works too.

These dried by the time the next batch was out of the oven. They are tacky, as they should be, and my house smells like a bad car freshener, but it’s all good considering the nifty little things that they are.  (The plant on the window sill is turmeric. Whether it ever produces anything or not, it is a nice house plant.)

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They cling well but leave a film on my hands at the moment. If that doesn’t go away I will reheat them and add another piece of fabric on top and press out the excess oils into the next batch. It’s enough for today.***ended up reheating with double fabric to absorb the excess, ended up with twice the wraps, very neat.

If we had to keep all of our waste in our own back yard, we would do better at reusing and recycling (or you could just bury it like our grandfathers did… I am still digging up surprises in the garden yearly. Archaeological dig anyone?!).

Anyway, one more way to eliminate waste and a fun afternoon.

 

 

Fresh Beginnings

As with every new year we settle down and rethink our plans for the upcoming year on the homestead. What can we expand, what should be dropped, what new projects can we take on?

This year sees us re-certifying our kitchen to allow us to go back full force to canning and making our much loved chicken pot pie and rhubarb rosemary BBQ sauce. We have applied to be part of a local craft fair in November 2018 so plans for that are under way. The raising of chickens is being expanded as are the bees. We have been experimenting with the brewing of honey mead and have come up with a very nice fruit flavored mead we hope to continue and expand on.

Our newest and most exciting project this year is creating a Saturday morning farmers market here on the homestead. We have our seeds ordered for early vegetables and are also doing an early batch of chickens. They should be ready just in time for the first market weekend.

To top off the plans is our application to the Future Farmers Program that should be able to assist us to become full fledged farmers. We are currently working on a rough business plan. To this point we have been working off our lists and personal drive but the time has come to get official and narrow down a 5 year plan to get us to our goals.

 

From all of this we can tell you it is never too late to make your life into what you dream of. From a couple of “almost old timers”, make a plan, be flexible and look for your local resources. If at first your plan doesn’t work, take a break and look at it with fresh eyes and enthusiasm and try again.

What else are you doing but living your life?

 

Red Onion Powder

 

In an endeavor to create all of our own spices from what we grow, we need to step back and look at what we use and love. Onion powder is high on the list of frequently used items. As it turns out, it is a very simple process to make and the results will blow your mind. The flavor intensity is out of this world. I use this in our absolutely favorite recipes…Red Onion Powder.

It starts with approximately 2 pounds of organic (or chemical free home grown) red onions peeled and finely minced (food processors are great).  Spread the eye burning mess on a parchment paper covered sheet pan and bake at 250 degrees until dry. Your house will burn with a unique essence that encourages outdoor activities. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air, plant something, weed something or just go for a short walk.

When the air has cleared and all is crispy and cool, throw in a coffee grinder and voila, red onion powder.

Really, make the time. There is nothing like it.

Savory for life!

Prepping for winter

The time has flown past us is in a whirl wind of activity as we struck items off our to do list this spring and summer. Now we look, with tired bodies, at what is ready and what still needs to be prepped in the garden and for the bees before winter sets in.

It’s been a good season.

The chicken coop is shingled, protected from the weather this year. Now the buildings match, which we appreciate.

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The buckwheat has fallen and is ready to be tilled in or left to frost kill and we can do it next spring…whatever.

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The raspberry patch as been taken down to 2 feet, weeded and mowed.

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The garlic bed buckwheat has been tilled under and is ready to plant this weekend. Roses love garlic so we are planting some behind the rose arches in hopes it helps with aphids.

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The saffron crocus are in bloom and need to be protected and harvested daily as they bloom.

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The final pea planting is hooped with a tarp at the ready for frosty nights.

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The empty beds have been over planted with oats for cover crop.

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The bees have their small entrance reducers on, honey has been harvested and they will have their final inspection and winterizing this weekend. Each gets a bottom foam board and a solid plywood board under that then a sugar feed board topped with sugar. Any weak swarm captures may be combined with a stronger established hive, we’ll see at inspection if the queens are alive and thriving. We have saved full honey frames from the harvest to give back if needed, it’s better than sugar and we really don’t need all 126 lbs we stole from them.

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There is the last of the carrot, beets and turnip to pull and store as well. The frost helps them sweeten so we are in no hurry other than watching for overgrowth and cracking, and they are going a wee bit over board at the moment.

 

I think that about covers the progress and to-do for now.

Loving the cooler air, the sweet smell of fresh juniper wood (8 cord) still to be cut.  Things move slower now, more time spent wrapped in blankets in the rocking chairs on the deck, enjoying the last of the quiet evenings while we can. Some how the time is more precious knowing the snow will blow soon.

 

Saffron

The time is finally here for the saffron crocus to bloom. It is dormant most of the year and has a very short bloom, so timing is everything. We have been protecting the plants from the frost with straw and a tarp. Not to mention the wire cage they were planted in to keep our rodent gardening partners out. So far, so good.

There are still 16 or so to come into bloom with three little stamen each. A bit excited to have grown saffron in Eastern Canada. Who knew it could be done? Now to decide what to do with it! Proverbial horse before the cart, but it intrigued me so we tried it.

The “grow it bug” is stronger than the desire to consume at times. Some people climb mountains…we grow things. To each their own.

Beware the first seed you plant, it may cause irrevocable addiction that will have you going to work with dirt under your nails and seed suppliers knowing you on a first name basis. It can happen to your sister, your brother, your friends…help them…give them seeds.