Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekend Projects, Better Known as Cans of Worms

Have you ever started a project, quite out of the blue, spent half of the day on it and then it is just not quite right?  That was how my Saturday morning went.  B was working, so I decided to attempt re-organization of our entry.  I bought an additional piece of furniture (since returned), moved/hid our device charging area, and thoroughly cleaned everything only to be unsatisfied with the result.

Once B got home we made a couple of more adjustments and he suggested one of those big bench hall trees.  After looking at the furniture already in our room, I could not picture another large piece.  Then he suggested hanging a giant hall tree on the wall.  Better yet, let's make one from old scrap material in the barn!

What we are left with is a cool old weathered door, gently cleaned, varnished and affixed with several large hooks that were in various areas of the barn.  B even fashioned a way to securely attach it to the wall staying true to the picture rail that is already there, and it is sturdy enough that he could hang from the door and it will not budge (not just a figure of speech, he hung from the door).

Moral of the story; a little moving of furniture, creativity, $35 and a lot of elbow grease and we have a cool piece that makes the whole room feel like brand new.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Choc Tox

No one is immune, even our family.  All it takes is an 85 degree house (the ac is out) with a tired child who fell asleep before eating their handful of tasty dark chocolate chips.  Fast forward 7 hours and we were left with one desperately sick farm poodle.

We are very fortunate that B is so gifted at his profession.  Even with his gifts, the severe reaction this sassy farm poodle had was the worst that he had seen in his 20 year career.

Severe vomiting, tremors, rapid heart rate, increase then decrease in body temperature and difficulty maintaining blood pressure were the symptoms varying in severity that over the course of yesterday left us questioning at times if he was going to recover.  It appears that our tough farm poodle has made it through the worst.  Though a bit of recovery is ahead for him, we are so happy that he and his big farm poodle ego are still with us.   Moral of the story;  Choc Tox (chocolate toxicity) is no joke, even very small amounts especially in a smaller dog can be devastating and each patient may react differently to the volume ingested.  Please excuse me, I'm headed to hug a poodle.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Our Daughters

Our daughters.  Smart, creative, imaginative, old souls.  For months they have dreamt about getting their attire in place and spending their summer weekends at the Renaissance Faire.

Though, the season passes may be in next years reality, hopefully we will get another chance this summer, and this weekend was one to remember.  Spending a beautiful day; half of it getting the perfect peasant chic dialed in.

So proud of my girl, getting into perfect Ren Faire character as she yelled "Lady Rebecca" through the store to be fitted with her bodice. (very against type I assure you, yet the glee in her face when she broke free to do it was priceless)!

Then to top off the glow of the day at the faire, an overnight with her kindred spirit.  Followed by a day planning for a photo shoot.

Look what lovely young wenches ladies, our daughters are turning out to be.

These photos were taken by my good friend Nicole.  An amazing job capturing the beautiful spirit of our daughters.  xo

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stretching Wings

This springs fowl on the property are growing quickly and are forever entertaining.  One duck in particular quacks like Donald Duck and when he gets mad, it almost sounds like he is scolding us.  I am trying to catch it on video, it is quite comical!  As we are in the middle of a sudden downpour, I am reminded of the fact that ducks love the rain and run out of their shaded areas to raise their bills to the water that falls.

The chickens and ducks have all been housed together since they were babies a mere eight short weeks ago. They live harmoniously together and have all decided to refuse our best efforts to lock them in at night.  As you can see they are finding places to roost wherever they want.

We chose all of our meat birds in particular because they were aggressive foragers.   The barred rock especially embrace this quality and have taken it to the next level, roosting together in an apple tree.   It makes us a little nervous, this choice of theirs to stay out at nights, perching where they like.  Thankfully we invested in the electric poultry fence to keep the predators out, with any luck it will continue to be an effective deterrent.  At some point you just have to let them stretch their wings.

Early Morning Rewards

A cup of coffee on the porch this brisk morning before farm chores was rewarded with this sight.  A lovely start to the day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Foraging

It is finally that time.  We have been waiting eagerly for the elderflowers to bloom, and as we were driving around last week, we knew that the weekend would be our prime opportunity.  I cannot remember a year when the elderflowers were so prolific.  I am not sure if they are just boasting that they survived our frigid winter or if the county simply has not gotten to mowing them down yet, regardless, it led to quite a bounty!

Elderflowers make our favorite cordial and Charlie especially has been asking after it since mid-March.  We drove the county roads and walked some railroad tracks and easily collected nine grocery sacks full of perfect flower heads.  After hours of separating them from their stems, the result was a five gallon crock full of flowers that are going to spend the next several days steeping in a simple syrup/acid mixture and becoming cordial.

We were just in a foraging kind of mood yesterday and we decided to hike back into the heavily wooded part of our property to the black raspberry bramble that was just starting a couple of years ago.  I am happy to say, that it has turned into a very large bramble that we traipsed through collecting four pounds of ripe berries.

Last winter while we were surviving the 'polar vortex', I came across an article about berry shrubs.  Then a couple of weeks ago I was reminded about them when julochka posted that she had just made some.  These fresh drink mixes were used primarily prior to refrigeration as a way to preserve an abundance of fruits and were drank as a precursor to soda.  The concoction is fresh fruit, sugar and vinegar.  There are several recipes out there, but we went for it a bit on our own.  We took quart mason jars and filled them to just below the shoulder with berries, then dissolved  2 cups of sugar in 2 cups of vinegar.  We did one cup apple cider vinegar, and one cup of our homemade red wine vinegar.  Poured the mixture over the berries to fill the jars, where they will sit for a week or so before use.

The four pounds of black raspberries yielded four quarts of shrub.  We did an additional quart using our first gooseberries of the season.  I can't wait to take a taste, I have a feeling that there will be many more shrubs made as the garden progresses!

Speaking of the 'polar vortex'  I hope this possibility does not affect our tomatoes ripening!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting the Hang Of It!

I have not been able to write as regularly here as I would like.  We have been amazingly busy implementing new strategies at work, and then took a quick weekend trip for a family gathering over the Fourth holiday.

We have been very fortunate this year.  Our garden is flourishing above and beyond years' past and today we put out our third farm bag of the season!  Last year our first bag came out the middle of July!  I love to be able to look back year to year at photos.  The above photo is our garden as of July 15th last year.  The top photo was our garden this afternoon.

Most of the individual pictures and details of the farm bags along with recipe ideas are being shared over on our Aisling SmallHolding facebook page, but to summarize:  our farm bags in the early part of this season have consisted of lots of salad greens, green onions, kohlrabi, bok choi, green garlic, garlic scapes, radishes, beets, dill, thyme, lavender, sugar snap peas, and a few baby carrots.  Our tomato plants have already set tons of tomatoes, some are just beginning to blush with color.  We harvested our first few eggplant this week, the chickpeas look to be getting close, and it seems we will have a bumper crop of raspberries.  It is so rewarding to walk through this years plot and just breathe.  We seem to be getting the hang of this thing!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Ecology of the Farm

We are always fascinated by the new things that pop up around us.  Whether it is plants, insects or animals, we love to see what natives decide to call the farm home each season.  This year we have seen an inordinate number of bee species, they must be the fittest as they survived our harsh winter and are flourishing.

This morning I saw what appeared to be a small ant hill emerge in the garden.  Then I saw a green head poking out of it, and sinking back in each time it saw me.  B thinking it was a worm and being forever inquisitive decided to knock the hill down and see it closer up.  When that did not work, he took a small shovel to dig a little deeper finding these Metallic Green Bees.

After a little research we found out that they live in smallish colonies and are amazing pollinators in the garden.  Since they have very short tongues, they focus on plants that have clusters of flowers with an open architecture.  That must be why they decided to set up shop here.  This year we are experimenting with several new types of beans.  Though our green beans and broad beans are not flowering yet, a few others are. The above photo is of our row of chickpeas.  This ferny plant is gorgeous and we have just spotted our first little pod forming!

Keeping in line with the clusters of flowers that the Metallic Green Bees prefer, our first go at fava beans is treating us to an amazing square stemmed plant.

Of course the sugar snap peas are another grouping of flowers that are popular right now.  We always do our best to live along side the ecology on the farm.  These little green bees are not aggressive and we do not see any reason to rid ourselves of an important pollinator.  However, all bets are off if any of those nasty ground wasps re-appear this summer!

By the way!  We have named the farm and started its own facebook page.  Please 'like' Aisling SmallHolding-ASH   It is a place where we are sharing farm happenings.  Whether you live near or far, we hope it becomes a collective of ideas.  A place where you can share your recipes or creations from your own gardens or with the locally grown produce that you pick up.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lavender Cashew Brittle

This morning we did our first harvest of lavender, and let me tell you we did not even make a dent in what is beginning to bloom.  I have been researching new ways to use lavender and am excited to start experimenting.  I prepared the typical bundles for drying, but this time instead of hiding them in the basement, I have hung them in our dark hall closet with all of our coats.  I figured that we might as well enjoy it as it dries out.

To find some inspiration, I have been sifting through recipes that utilize lavender.  Then some perfect timing.  As I paged through my new Martha Stewart magazine, there was a piece on a lavender farmer.  One of the photos was of lavender brittle, but there was no recipe.  So I started to search for one.  It was hard to find a specific one, only hints at adding herbs to your favorite brittle recipe. At a recent meeting I had a wonderful cashew brittle and got the recipe, so I decided to try it while adding a good amount of fresh flowers.

It turned out beautifully and may make an appearance in one of our farm bags soon!  Without further ado...

Lavender Cashew Brittle

1 C butter
1 C sugar
1 C corn syrup
1 C salted Cashews
2 tsp. lavender flowers, minced

Bring butter, sugar and corn syrup to a boil and maintain boil while stirring until it reaches 295 degrees (hard crack).  Skip the morning work out the day you make brittle, your arms will be moving constantly for quite a while here!  Then remove from heat, stir in cashews and lavender and quickly transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet (I use a jelly pan, because I like that little lip all of the way around).  You have to work VERY quickly here to get it to spread out.  It begins to set the moment it hits the cookie sheet!  Mine was completely cool within 15 minutes and I broke it into pieces.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Solstice Weekend

This last weekend was full of busy celebration.  The weather here has been un-summerlike for late June; fairly cool, rain almost daily, and lots of fog.  Despite this, every moment this weekend that truly mattered was enveloped in a ray of sunshine to remind us that it is really summer.  On the solstice we dodged rain drops all day.  When it came time for our Solstice Celebration at the Eco-Justice Center, the sun came through just in time for a spectacular sunset on the longest day.  Perfect to enjoy the Native American drumming and stories around the medicine wheel.
Sunday a high school classmate of B's arrived for a short visit (thank you facebook for rekindling old friendships).  He and his wife rode all the way here from Tulsa on their motorcycle and headed out this morning toward the U.P.  We welcomed them in true farm style with a garden supper complete with a large beer tasting and a welcoming party of Wisconsin friends to celebrate.

The adults enjoyed the garden, while the kids picnicked on the grass and played the evening away.

Yesterday after work and running to appointments and 4h activities we enjoyed another lovely garden dinner with our friends and off they went this what else, more fog.  Great to finally meet you Tim & Jeanice, until next time!  I'd say quite the perfect weekend to celebrate midsummer.


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