Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer's End


With many farm chores completed early today, this first afternoon of a long holiday weekend is comprised of; the kids hanging with friends, a bright blue sky that suddenly fills with dark clouds that burst and disappear, warm temperatures speckled with golden early fall light, Murakami, foul watching, and a glass of red wine.  Yes, this is how summer's end should feel.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#tbt Cowboys


What a difference almost 30 years makes.  After a wonderful week at the Alisal last week, I found this picture of my brother and I right around 1986 with Cowboy Dick.  Below is the photo I took last year of him with Charles.  This year we saw him out working cattle, gotta love cowboys!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer's Sunset


We have taken the last week to catch our breaths and get back into the routine of school and fall sports.  With harvest also upon us each day has been fast and furious as always.  This morning I feel like we are catching up and getting a handle, so I have a moment to look back.   I took this photo on the last night of our vacation.  A perfect view of our favorite place.  A fitting image as the sun set on our summer.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Re-Entry



Late August brings us not only an amazing shift in light, but also seas of goldenrod beginning to bloom.  The sun hitting this beautiful weed and the sound of cicadas greeted us when we returned home mid-week.  I was thankful for that glimpse, what with school and sports practices starting immediately.  My friend emailed me a welcome home, and said good luck with re-entry.  I'd never thought about it that way, but man is that true!


As much as we relished the special time away with family, we came back ready and eager to dig in and see how the garden had fared.  No surprise we had squash the size of pumpkins and loads of everything else.  The tomatoes delayed slightly for us and are just beginning to really produce. We planted mostly paste and drying tomatoes this year in the hopes of a good canning year.  It looks as if we may have gotten lucky!  I wanted to have a stocked pantry this year, especially so after I saw the latest predictions from the Old Farmers Almanac.   To top if off, our crocked cucumbers were perfectly ready for canning when we got home!


Of course since we have had such a mild summer, we have come back to hot and very muggy.  In fact after boasting to the family all last week that we had not seen a single 90 degree day this summer, it appears that is what is in our forecast over the next several days.  Between this and the almanac's thoughts on our upcoming winter, we stopped procrastinating and set the wheels in motion to replace our elderly heating unit and non working a/c.


And then there were three.  Yesterday morning we gathered our meat ducks and took them to the processor.  This was our first foray in to sourcing our own animal protein, and I must say that though we were somber, we knew it was right.  One of our goals when moving to the homestead was to teach our kids and better appreciate ourselves where our food comes from.  We knew that they had had an amazing life romping in large open spaces with room to swim, and weren't cooped up in some large facility.  The three remaining are mascots and hopefully an egg layer or two.

My mind is spinning after a week away, re-entry accomplished, now to write.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Chili Saturday


Seven years ago when we moved to the farm we wanted to have a kind of welcome party and decided to make it a chili cook off.  Over the years it has developed into quite a party and something we look forward to hosting and attempting to make bigger and better each time.  This year's chili cook off was a wonderful event!  Each year we try to dial it in more, so that it becomes something very manageable, yet with some fresh new ideas.


This year was especially exciting because we had a blogger from The Boston Store come out to feature us in a little farm to table spread that they will be blogging early this fall.  So much fun, I cannot wait to see it!


Of course, I could not resist taking a few pictures of them taking pictures of us.  Hi Lisa! :)



Since just more than half of our 111 guest this year are kids we added a couple of new games to the standard  basketball, badminton (I had absolutely no idea it was spelled this way!), volleyball and trampoline.  We did a lawn painted twister game, and a space for giant Jenga.  Both of the new areas were well used, and fun to watch.


We had nine chilies and six pies this year and I have to say that all of the contenders out did themselves!  The winning chili was a chili verde and the winning pie was key lime.  Each of the winners got a couple of goodies to take home as well as bragging rights and the trophies (the stuffed pig and golden rolling pin in the first picture) for their event which they will sign and bring back next year.  I wonder what little touches we will add for the next one?  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Foul Wrangling


Never a dull moment here on the farm.  In the last week we have lost two of our meat chickens to a predator.  We figured that it had to be coming in from the air, because our electric perimeter did not appear to have been broken.  Then the other night B found some very vocal blue-jays haranguing a very large owl.  Predator found.


It has been a number of years since we have had a predator problem with our chickens, and it seems that late summer and very early fall is the season for it.  When we allow birds to completely free range, they tend to roost high up in our pine trees.  When this witching time of year comes, they are used to getting up about 4:30 am or so when it is light and continue to do so, even if it does not really get light now until closer to 5:30 now.  This is the ideal time for Mr. or Mrs. Owl to swoop in.  Well this morning we went out and found that he had upped his game and taken one of our runner ducks, one of the few we were planning to keep for eggs.  Ugh!


We decided to re-locate them into an area where there were no trees within their perimeter that they could roost in, hopefully forcing them to go back into their very nice chicken tractor at night.  It was a bit of an ordeal to capture 24 chickens and 11 ducks, move the tractor, and then move the fencing, but we did it this afternoon and are quite happy with the new placement.  We can see them from our front porch now and it is fun to watch there antics.


Good thing we could see them because guess what happened last evening?  They jumped  up on the roof of the chicken tractor, then haphazardly flew to an adjacent pine branch and began their ascent into the tree!  We managed to capture all but three, who were far too high, and wouldn't budge even when shaking the branch.  Crafty little beasts.  It looks like round two today will involve clipping all of their wings...that ought to be fun!  Score one for the ducks!  They wrangle much better, herding right into the enclosure.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Never Fails


It does seem the 'Murphy's Law' of it that multiple things happen at once.  This week we are preparing to host close to 100 people on the farm Saturday, and then pack as we are leaving on vacation 36 hours later.  Guess what?  It is also the week where it seems the garden is in a huge boom.  We picked 26 eggplant just yesterday.  So if packing, primping, and getting the kids ready for school (as they start the day after we get home) isn't enough.... we have tons of harvest to preserve for winter enjoyment!  I know, I know, first world problems.  It does give me a slight excuse for not posting here as regularly as I would like this week.   Please, if you have tried and true eggplant recipes, do share!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Good Morning August!


Well hello August!  It is hard to believe that you are here already and even harder to believe that I spied the first blush of color on the trees three days ago.  As you can see from the picture above, the trees are not the only things that are beginning to blush this first day of August.   The light is lower and more golden, and school starts in less than three weeks.  I cannot say that these are necessarily the dog days as we have had such a mild summer, yet it is crunch time.  We will spend our weekend knee deep in prep for our Seventh Annual Chili Cook-off, which is one week away, and the perfect event to kick off making the most of the end of summer.  Happy Weekend!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Magic of Herbs


I have enjoyed all of the River Cottage Handbooks that I own.  Each written on history, experience, and thoughts about the given topic.  I found myself quite enamoured with No. 10: Herbs.  How can you not be taken with a book whose opening paragraph is: "Herbs are beautiful, life-enhancing, seductive things.  Whether you see them primarily as plants or as ingredients, they are enticing.  I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at a lavender bush nodding in the sunshine or sniff a torn bay leaf and not experience, at the very lease, a flicker of pleasure."


Maybe it is just us, but as we walk around nightly in our garden, or our yard, we constantly brush up against the greenery, pinch a plant between our fingers and sniff to identify it.  Wild lemon balm, lambs quarter, catnip.  After reading this book I am more enchanted than ever with herbs.  As vital in cooking as salt and stimulating multiple senses, herbs can fix a state of mind.  When harvesting lavender a few weeks ago, my whole home smelled of the woody floral beauty that was drying.  I began to utilize it in recipes and found a whole new appreciation for it.   I ran out immediately to Milaegers to fill in our herb plantings and bought up multiple varieties of sage, and I am currently on the hunt for a bay tree that I can overwinter indoors.


This evening as I snapped the flower head off of a dill plant for a cucumber salad, I smelled the intoxicating aroma on my hands.  The oils released into the air and linger.  Smell is such an important sense that can immediately calm a mood or send you to a different place.  Herbs are magic, and I am only just beginning to realize how to use each individual to it's fullest.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Growing Fast


The last seven weeks has just flown!   Mr. Emerson has tripled in size and personality.  His herding instinct is strong.  He is incredibly smart, wily, and is growing so lanky that he can be quite clumsy.


Training is coming along well, though at times frustrating, after all he is a puppy.  However, his responses are much more consistent and rapid.


Best of all, Xander has come around and fully engages with him.  Sometimes to his chagrin, starting something and wanting to be done far before the energetic newcomer.  We are just thankful he's still around to be annoyed.

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