Spring and rebirth, it is upon us.

So, it’s spring and we are full of new plans and excitement.

The 10 arches are ready for the climbing roses to be planted. It took 2 years to get them but they are at our supplier waiting for us and will get them shortly. It is to be a deep red and fragrant Don Juan and a white fragrant Hella. Finding roses with deep scent has been a hunt. If it doesn’t smell like a rose, why plant it? It might just be me?

The old chimney brick is piled against the house for the continuing walkway from the greenhouse, the arch walk is going to be grass at this point.

One last row of picket fence to go from the last arch to the greenhouse edge(with another arch to the side into the new shade garden of course!) is yet to be done.

The house and greenhouse seedlings are doing well and will go in the ground soon.

There are 7 new raised beds going in so we stop rotto tilling our potato beds, a cutting garden(or medicinal, yet to decide) going in the green house picketed fence area as the raspberry patch moves to the newly cleared back corner. We cleared all non-orchard trees from the little unused corner last year in prep for this.  Plus adding some lovely black current bushes and a Tay Berry bush from friends.

There is, as mentioned,  a shade garden of local natural plants going in between the green house and the fence line. A quick trip to MacPhail Woods Nursery and we are in business. We have to pick up our order for Ostrich fern, Witch hazel, Bayberry, Swamp Milkweed, Dutchmans Breeches (again, can’t giggle enough at growing pants!), and Hairy Sweet Cicily. There will surely be more selected when we get there as we have no control over our plant procurement habit.

The tandem loads of new soil have started arriving(local seaweed laced at that) and the local child labour has been contacted for wood stacking.

We have signed up to be a  garden tour location for July 16th and are in full force to pull  it together. Nothing like setting a deadline on productivity…like we need one.

The meat chicks have been ordered and their coop is scheduled for a fix up as raccoons and rodents have had a hay day over the winter with burrowing under the slab and eating through wooden door jams and walls. We had no idea after 15+yrs with that shed that now they would become obsessed with entry???

The 3 new bee nucs are ready for pick up this weekend(as 3 died over winter and these are local created, which is new for us), the pollen patties are out as well as the new bee feeder, which they seem to love and is in full vigor. Simply drill small holes in the inner edge of a bucket, fill with sugar water , put on the lid and flip over. Perfection. Just have to take it to the greenhouse at night or the raccoon will have a sugar high.

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Our kitchen may be temporarily closed but we are building plans for next year, you can slow us down, throw obstacles at us but we will find a way.

It is spring and everything is possible when the sun shines on you.

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Beard Balm

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It’s the dead of winter and the cold crisp air takes its toll on our skin. To over come the dry itchy skin I pull out the basics of  brown sugar/olive oil/vanilla scrub in the shower and slather in coconut oil after. It leaves you smelling like a day at the beach and moisturized enough to get through another day. That’s all fine and dandy if you like the smell of vanilla and coconut but it’s not very manly.

For the manly beard, that is habitually grown to combat the chill, something else had to be done.  A quick internet search plus a double check of the soap making supplies on hand and an easy Beard Balm was concocted.

Beard Balm:

  • 2 ounces Shea butter
  • 1 ounce Bees wax
  • 4 ounces oil( I had grape seed so used that but coconut works too if you can handle the smell or jojoba or argon…)

You can certainly add any essential oils you like but for a mister who doesn’t like scents, plain worked out well.

I put all ingredients in a glass bowl, microwaved 30 seconds at a time and stirred in between each cycle until all was mostly melted. The stirring will work the last of the bees wax in without having to heat until it is all dissolved. Of course it can be done over a double boiler or however you see fit. Just get it warm enough to melt without boiling.

Then the liquid was quickly poured into two 125 ml mason jars. This set quickly, be ready.

Rub a small amount into your beard and massage in. If you have a soft bristle beard brush to distribute the balm evenly and get it into the skin, so much the better.

Hard working men deserve a little cold weather luxury and every woman knows a softer beard is never a bad thing.

 

 

Makin’ the Bacon

 

We purchased a full pig from another homesteader. The pig was one of two raised, and was named Pork Chop. Pork Chop enjoyed having his ears scratched until he fell asleep in the sun  and eating garden left overs. I thoroughly enjoy hearing stories of how our food was raised.

And this is the story of how Pork Chop became bacon.

We bought this book on preserving meat and the absolute first thing we had to make was bacon. It has been years since we cut it out of our diet because, well, we try to eat only what we grow or make ourselves and we didn’t know how to make bacon.

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There are many items on the “to try” list , but lets get back to the bacon! A simple salt rub and 7 days in a bag in the fridge for the pork belly. Then a cold water wash, smoking for a few hours and the fry up. Oh, the frying…the scent, the crispy edges.

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Since I had made fresh bread today it was a toasted bacon sandwich for supper after a long day of Christmas baking. Today was family doughnut making day, so some salt to counter all the sugar was definitely in order. That’s the excuse I am using on myself anyway.

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I couldn’t get a picture before I devoured half of it. The rest will be chilled to partial frozen then sliced on our new toy(the meat slicer) before being vac-sealed and frozen in portions.  Many days of bacon adventures are to be had in the near future and 3 more pork belly pieces to cure and smoke as needed(bacon is a need now…).

Large pieces of pork turn into the most amazing little pieces of love. I am certain the main ingredient in bacon is love, I’m sure of it.

Sending out bacon love far and wide.

 

 

 

Black Garlic

Seriously the best food on the planet. Black Garlic is fermented garlic that has turned black, sweet, soft and oh, so delicious (and good for you apparently).

I have been buying black garlic from a local garlic farmer, Eureka Garlic,who also inspired my love of growing garlic. Over the years I have contemplated fermenting my own but just never got around to it. After much internet searching and video watching I  threw in the towel and launched the experiment.

I bought a cheap little rice cooker, layered paper towel on the bottom, full garlic bulbs to fill the bowl, a final layer of paper towel and then tossed in some water to keep everything hydrated. The cooker was left on warm since August 15th. I should note that the cooker came with a steamer basket I used to layer the garlic…it slowed the process and I discarded it within the first 30 days.

For the first couple of weeks it was left outside on the back deck as the initial smell was overwhelming. Once the smell subsided (it was actually only a couple of days but I was busy and the raccoons don’t like garlic so it was safe to leave alone) it was good to bring back inside and let it sit until done. The only attention it needed was to monitor the moisture level along the way. Sometimes I added a little white wine, others beer but mostly water.

From everything I had researched people were getting black garlic in as little as 10 days and as much as 30 days…good for them. At 3 and a half months I have a product I am happy with. The bulbs have turned black, the flesh is tender and sweet. I can eat the cloves straight from the bulb. I will say they are not the Eureka Garlic extreme fleshy softness that you can squish with your thumb, that he has perfected over years of trials, but they are my first attempt. The texture is soft and slightly chewy, but not gummy bear tough. They should make a sauce with very little effort.

A success that I will do again. Maintaining a more sustained moisture level should improve the results and time frame. I frequently had to re hydrate crispy cloves as I forgot about it. Good to know that dehydration did not kill the experiment.

If one man can do it, so can you.

My father taught me I can do anything I want to (note I have to want to…)and I have not waived from that belief. I wanted to do this.

Done.

 

Kid Testimonials

We have put together, on our Facebook page, a list of preserves for sale locally. Some of the best testimonials are coming from the kids of Moms who have bought our jams and jellies.

 

The Blueberry Jam got, ” It’s like the jam came down from the Heavens !!”. Apparently the hands were thrown in the air for dramatic affect as well. It gave us a good laugh to say the least.

We have another trying to figure out how to earn $10.00 so he can buy 3 bottles of Apple Jelly for himself and not have to share with his siblings. One brother placed dibs on the last spoon of jam for breakfast then didn’t end  up eating it, so new dibs have been placed and will not be passed on by the other. Welcome to Jelly Wars. We figure we can find enough work for him (and his brother) in the gardens to earn $10.00 in short order. Working for what you want is a good lesson we are pleased to inspire and assist in.

I took some samples of our seasonings into work were my co-workers are willing guinea pigs…umm, I mean taste testers. One of my co-workers, having chicken thawing at home, tried our Italian Bread Crumb seasoning for which her son gave an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up for the new flavor.

The feed back is fun to hear. It gives me joy to feed people. When the kids love it I know we are doing it right.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s funny in an,”Oops, I could do better.”, way too. A chicken pot pie went out and the kid teased that I was trying to kill him with a twig in the pie…probably a sprig of rosemary not ground enough…oops. No one was injured in the incident. So now I over ground the herbs and this next 6 pies are green tinted with herb dust (tastes great, just green)…I am a woman of extremes apparently, but I do listen and try to learn from all the feed back I get.

Thank you.

Mexican Little Person Tomato Compote

I couldn’t make up the name, truly it is from a time when politically incorrect was the norm.

We attended a seed exchange in the spring and picked up these “Mexican Midget Tomato” seeds. Figuring they were just a cherry tomato of sorts, we dedicated a small bed to their experimental growth. To say they are small is the definition of an understatement.

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The plants grew easily 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide with no fruit showing at all…until you look inside and underneath the foliage. The power house of micro tomato growth was insane.

We attempted to eat a few but picking them was more of a chore than they were worth. So we pulled up the plants and brown paper bagged the under ripe tomatoes, figuring we would do “something” with them if they ripened. Well they did and we did.

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It’s a roasting pan filled with three lunch bags of itty-bitty little tomatoes. The only thing I can think of to do with them is to toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, fresh basil and roast them down into a compote. We enjoy a nice compote as a pizza base or over pasta for a simple quick meal (read girl food lunches ). Hot water bath it for 15 minutes in half pint jars and it will be good to go, and not wasted. We grew it and wasting that hurts my heart.

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We try to add a couple of experimental items to the garden every year. This year was eggplant, mustard seed and Mexican Midget tomatoes. The seed and micro tomatoes are not hitting the ground next year as they are more work to harvest they are worth but I love the eggplant. In the past we have thrown in peanuts(turned into bird/squirrel feed) and wheat(again,too hard to harvest when we have an organic grain producer down the road).

As with everything in life; if you never try you will never know…and knowing is what keeps us going.

Preserving Time

 

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Once again, it’s the time of year that we work so hard for; Preserving.

A deep seated love of mason jars is evident.

Before you read further, please accept my apology for this long post/list.

This week has been busy and fun as we worked together to put down our bounty for the coming winter and a little bit for a few sales.

We managed:

  • 48 bottles salsa(mild,medium and hot)
  • 18 bottles mustard pickles
  • 13 bottles pickled beets
  • 18 bottles honey apple jelly
  • 18 bottles apple jelly (we are getting our worth out of the jelly tree this year)
  • 11 bottles cardamom plum jam
  • 12 bottles plum butter(needs a little rework as the plums were a touch tart, next week)
  • 26  bottles kernel corn pressure canned
  • 31 bottles rendered pork lard

Earlier was:

  • 8 bottles sage honey
  • 11  bottles peas (the snow peas we ate as the ripened…kept seed for next year)
  • 12 bottles dilly beans
  • 12 bottles yellow and green bean mix
  • 12 bottles spiced dilly beans
  • 12 bottles peaches in honey syrup
  • 18 bottles apple sage butter
  • 67 bottles honey
  • 75 meat chickens, first batch done
  • 18 cobs corn blanched and vacuum sealed for freezing
  • 265 bulbs garlic (seed set aside for next month’s planting)

That doesn’t cover the packing of the freezer with:

  • 96 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 110 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 30 pounds blueberries
  • 10 pounds raspberries
  • 20 pounds strawberries

The herbs have been harvested all summer and frozen or dried (too numerous to mention, truly we are out of control on this one), peppers are coming in now (drying Paprika as we speak, Jalapeno is in the salsa and the cayenne are still waiting for red, Anaheim never really took off, try again next year). The experimental eggplant has come in and a lovely Moussaka has been made(deemed girl food, yay me!).

Still to come:

  • second meat chicken batch(60 this weekend)
  • parsnip, after frost (peat moss in the cold room)
  •  potatoes, as soon as we get 2 dry days in a row
  • sweet potatoes, after frost
  • onions (stored in wire racks in the basement…they like open air but not too cool)
  • squash of all variety(zucchini,pumpkin,spaghetti,butternut,cucumber)
  • turnip, after first frost to sweeten (peat moss in the cold room)
  • beets for winter storage (peat moss in the cold room)
  • carrots (peat moss in the cold room)
  • seeds for everything for next year, drying on the vines
  • lobo apples soon, plus a trip to Arlington Orchards for our 40+ pounds of Cortland for the cold room(they keep 4 months!!). Our 2 trees are new and will produce in the next couple of years.
  • baking beans, drying on the vine

There are still many jams to do; strawberry, blueberry, rhubarb marmalade, blackberry.

The house smells great, we’re tired and happy.

We practice shared tasks and good communication/note leaving to have the other person finish something we didn’t when we ultimately run out of time and have to go to work. Working opposite shifts is a drag but in another 4 weeks I switch to day shift with him and life gets sweeter.

This isn’t work, this is life.