Monday, October 5, 2015

A Busy Fall

The last couple of weeks have been a blur!  We are in the heart of Fall soccer, and trying to get the garden buttoned up, remaining harvests processed, and the farrowing barn done in between.  We harvested 45 butternut squash over the last week.  I have been experimenting with a few new recipes and so far both soups and the alfredo have been fantastic!  
B has been working hard on the granary to get the East side of it cleared and converted to farrowing pens.  There are quantities of sawdust like dirt on the floor that reflects years and layers of empty grain hulls.  He is removing that down to the rock and stone floor so that we can then grade it and finish the base and then put in two nice pens.  Penelope and Mabel will then be able to walk through into their feeding area, their current sleeping spot and pasture access in the adjacent section of the barn.

Oh and well this last weekend was also Sid's first homecoming.  She went with her best friend and had a fantastic time!  So it has been a bit chaotic, but loads of fun.  As it is now October, and we seem to have gotten into the school/activities/farming groove, I am so looking forward to enjoying every fall moment to its fullest.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Did Not Disappoint

Last night's super moon lunar eclipse did not disappoint.  We walked out to the road several times during the first hour as the moon did not rise above our tree line until about nine.

Then we watched from different places in the yard.  B brought out his spotting scope and set it up so that we could get a really close up view, and we all took turns watching it that way too.

As the scope needed to be readjusted periodically at it's moving target, the kids also took some time for star gazing.

Possibly the best shot of the night was taken with an iPhone, carefully lined up with he spotting scope to capture some of the red of the blood moon.

Even this morning, I was struck by the full setting moon.  Thankfully the clouds held off during the eclipse, and now they shroud the moon making it look almost spooky as we head into October.

Monday, September 21, 2015

New Projects

This time of year makes me want to nest.  All of the time spent harvesting and preserving food gives me a sense of urgency to not only get outdoor tasks done but also to get the inside prepared to be our comfort in the colder months ahead while still enjoying my favorite season.  Part of this nesting is also reflected in a return to creativity.  Sid asked that I knit her a beanie.  Hmmmm, I have knit quite a bit in the past, but only blankets and scarves, things that could be knit in a straight line with no particular shape.

I found what looked to be a reasonably easy pattern, used supplies that I already had in the house, and knit two hats (one wearable) this week.  It was a great learning experience, and really not that difficult.  The first hat was plagued with problems.  I had to scrap it more than half way through when I realized that I had knitted a twist.  Lesson one was learning how to avoid a twist and as I began that hat again and then the second one, I paid close attention to avoid that!  The second lesson was in the weight of the yarn.  Though the pattern called for a medium worsted yarn, it really needed something heavy and the wool blend that I chose for round two was perfect.  The third lesson was when knitting in a round the length of the circle is very important.  Even if you cast on a certain number of stitches if you stretch them too far on say a 24" round vs. a 16" round it simply will be too large.

What I am left with is a happy daughter, more confidence and two hats, one that I think will fit perfectly on a scarecrow this fall!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Peter Piper Picked

We could hardly help but have this phrase reverberating through our heads yesterday as we stripped and removed pepper plants.  We harvested about 30 red peppers from 5 plants, and once removed still have three plants that remain with a few peppers starting that will provide some fresh for us through the fall.  We then picked a full half bushel of jalapeños!  What to do with all of these peppers??

This year we decided to try canning them so we began with charring the red peppers and a portion of the jalapeños on the grill.  Once charred we gently peeled the skins but not too carefully leaving some of the beautiful char flavor for the can.  Then B read that when canning peppers it was best to use their natural juices so we were also careful when we peeled them to keep them over the bowl that we had them in to collect any drippings.  We then dredged them in vinegar and put the portions into jars that we then topped with the natural juices and pressure canned at ten pounds for sixty minutes.  The jalapeños that we roasted were also dredged and went whole into cans to be used later, once the tomatoes finish, in salsa.

Then we took the remaining jalapeños, sliced them jarred them and topped them with boiling pickling liquid.  The proportions for the liquid are consistent measures. 2 1/2 C vinegar, 2 1/2 C water, & 2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar.  Then the quarts were water bath canned for 20 minutes.  As the capsaicin from the peppers getting air born in our kitchen can lead to hours or days of coughing in our household, we decided to do all of the prep work for the jalapeños outside on the porch.  This was a great decision and something that I highly recommend!

This left us with 3 1/2 quarts of roasted red peppers, 7 quarts of pickled jalapeños, and 1 quart of roasted whole jalapeños.  Yesterday Peter Piper Picked & Prepped Peppers three ways!

Friday, September 11, 2015

In The Garden :: September 11, 2015

It never fails that when we return from vacation at the end of August, we begin to focus on getting the kids ready for school and preserving food inside.  As a result, the garden proper is all but forgotten. It is running on auto-pilot and we take that for granted until...well about mid-September.   Once we had eaten, preserved and given away volumes of squash, we just let plants idle instead of pulling them.  When removing the vines today we did find zucchini the size of watermelons!  They will not go to waste as the chickens and pigs will have them as an added treat this weekend.

Don't get me wrong, we are still harvesting regularly, but we are also running out of steam; finding the larder fairly full, and beginning to contemplate taking the whole thing down.  Today, on our first truly fall like day with a gentle wind and crisp temperatures we began to take stock.  We weeded those beds that surround cooler weather crops that we will continue to harvest through the fall.  As a result we can now better see the sheer volume of red peppers and jalapeños that we have ready to harvest.  This weekend will include roasting and packing red peppers in olive oil, and pickling roasted jalapeño slices.

As the tomatoes have been pretty sporadic in ripening,  we have popped many of the tomatoes in the freezer as they ripen.  Once we have the bulk that we want for canning, we will simply defrost, skin and can them.  There are a number of determinate tomatoes on the vine that should be ready for roasting, making into salsa and canning within the next week or so too.

We will also be digging potato and pulling leeks for another round of vichyssoise.  Those cans were the biggest surprise last season, as they were the perfect base for many different soups and stews.  As the plants die back we can begin to really appreciate the volume of butternut squash that is appearing this season.  Since they are now hardening off, they are not a priority for picking but we will get them inside in the next few weeks.  How is your garden progressing?  Are you enjoying those final lingering harvests before putting it to bed too?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

New Digs

We are fortunate enough to be traveling this long holiday weekend and spending some quality time with our dear friends who moved this summer.  As we get acquainted with their new digs, it is a time of laughter and catching up, and the kind of comfort that comes from friends who are your family.

It is also a time of reminiscences, as we think back on our tastebuds.  The only thing missing is that we aren't all together, though I suspect before too long we will and oh what a party that will be!

*group photo shot by Images by Camela

Monday, August 31, 2015

In The Garden :: August 31, 2015

We have reached the end of official kid related summer, yet our garden's summer still has a few final weeks.  This time of year the garden really takes care of itself, our tasks are focused indoors where all of the bounty must be processed and preserved for the longer colder months ahead.

Though the garden still runs about two weeks behind, we are way ahead of our processing compared to last season.  Our pickling, freezing and canning is going great.  Really just eating all we can and waiting on the final reward, tomatoes ripening for sauce and salsa.

It is also the time of year when we focus on our to do list.  The litany of things that must be completed before winter.  As we finish final harvests over the next few weeks the garden must be put to bed.  Each row will need to be topped with a generous helping of compost, and covered.  The best way to do this will be to take it a bed at a time as we finish harvests as not to get too overwhelmed doing the whole thing at once.

We need to take advantage of the temperate days to get outdoor work done.  At the top of the list is preparing the granary to become our farrowing space for Mabel and Penelope.  The girls will be farrowing this winter, so we really need to get everything done when we are not also battling the cold.  As important as what is happening in the garden this time of year is how we balance enjoying the season, while accomplishing everything necessary to make our lives easier this winter as we button up the homestead.

Summer's End

Today marks the final day of the kids' summer break.  

There was plenty of down time and self direction peppered with day trips, friends, movies, bonfires, parties and finally a great vacation.  

This last day of break will be filled with little last minute school prep errands, maybe with a little something to make the day extra special. Until next time summer....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


It is always tough coming home from vacation and getting back into the time zone and routine.  Especially when the routine has been summer and you get thrown immediately into fall sports, and back to school preparations. Thankfully we have had this week to get the litany of pre-school year errands, appointments and open houses taken care of.  As the kids both start new schools this year, there is added enthusiasm for the start, with maybe a smattering of trepidation about the first days navigating new waters.  It is important for me to have things as in line as possible before school starts so that the transitions are smooth and free of any avoidable stresses.  The temperatures have been cool and rather fall-like early on this week. As the week winds down, the to do lists melt away and the temperatures look to be warming once again for the final weekend of summer break.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

In The Garden :: August 23

Leaving on vacation for nine days in the heart of the season always leaves us with a bit of anxiety.  I was thankful that we got so much preservation done before we left, because I do not feel so much panic in seeing the current surplus'.

This is one thing that we will not preserve, these little cucumbers are perfect just to pop whole into the Greek salads that may just be dominating our diets for the next couple of weeks.

I think if anything defines the state of the garden as we return from vacation, it is blush.  As we continue to preserve the summer squash and green beans, the next phase is blushing nicely.  Hints of canned tomatoes, sauces and salsas come...and oh the masses of butternut!  For a season that started so slowly, some things are well ahead of last year.  We were keeping our fingers crossed for ripening on winter squash up until we harvested them in late October last year.  This year?  Well, they are well on their way!

Along with the garden bounty, the late summer blooms are dotting the landscape in all of their glory.  The first goldenrod is just beginning to put on its show.  The garden tends to do what it wants this time of year and really you just must wait for it to provide and then eat and process.  The animals, on the other hand, gave Ellen quite a run for her money while we were gone, but that is a story for another post :)


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