Saturday, July 9, 2016

In The Garden :: July 9, 2016


As we have had a tremendous amount on our plates so far this summer, I have been remiss in posting.  I hope that as we move through the height of the garden season, that I can keep up! :)  The promise of mid-summer abounds with the garden in full swing and beginning to deliver.  The above elderflowers are about to make their way into mead.  B has not done a batch in a few years and instead of foraging for the flowers, the ones we planted long ago are starting to produce in spades.


The sugar snap peas (foreground) and the sunchokes (back) are beautiful.  The sunchokes, our first year with this perineal, are almost as tall as B right now.  The peas, as quite typical for us are so robust we cannot keep up with them.  Shaded in between the two at ground level is a patch of endive.


The summer squash are well on their way and we should be harvesting our first full size napa cabbages this weekend.  Brussel sprouts, broccoli and storage cabbages are also well on their way.  We will have plenty of horseradish and garlic to share, as we watch them take over their various beds.


We have five different kinds of beans this year.  Four green beans and a row of soybeans.  The large squash to the left is a volunteer coming back on it's own from last year.  We also have a volunteer cucumber.  Both plants have given us small early yields to whet our appetite as the smaller plants mature.


We have done primarily roma tomatoes for canning and salsa, but have plenty of cherry tomatoes for snacking.  Peppers and eggplant are also just beginning to flower.


We have a bed of storage onions which are coming along nicely.  We will think them during the summer as we need them and should still have a number to add to the root cellar.


This morning we did our initial harvest of red currants.  It looks like we may get another batch in the next week or so.  As I write, they are simmering on the stove so that we can extract the juice for jelly.  It may not look like it but the garden is smaller this year as we focus on just sustaining ourselves and our storage needs for the off season.  It will be fun to see what we can accomplish.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Catching Up



It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time can get away from us.  It has been a busy month with spring sports, wrapping up school, and having family in town visiting.  I cannot believe that it is June already; each day has been full.  Much like the baby robins above have matured rapidly in just one week, time has flown in the blink of an eye.  My free moments have left me tongue tied of late and been more for quiet reflection while basking in the abundant sunshine and reading the words of others rather than formulating my own.


The weather has been amazing and the garden is humming away. This weekend we will seed the remaining summer crops.  B purchased 60 feet of mining conveyor belt which he is re-purposing into circular raised Mellon and squash beds.

B has also been working on a solar heating system for the pool which is just about finished and should work wonderfully.  

Our chicks are set to arrive just prior to mid-month and I look forward to raising a new flock of egg layers along with this seasons meat birds.  We have had quite a drought of eggs from our aging and diminishing flock this year and I am looking forward to an abundance of eggs once again this fall.  So with the expectation of their arrival we have moved the chicken tractor to new digs behind the garden.


The peonies are just starting to open.  This year the evolution is seamless.  We had two full weeks of lilacs blooming, and just as the final buds have withered, the peonies are making their entrance.


We are getting scattered thunderstorms this afternoon and after the mornings work, it is a welcome respite, to sit back listen to the rain and gaze upon the progress.  As we weeded, trimmed and reorganized a few things in the garden this morning, we found the fruits of our labor from propagating our own monarch haven.  We have a mini milk week forest that is growing, sure to bring some colorful friends.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

In the Garden ~ Week of May 16


Though our weather is winter coats one day and t-shirts the next, the longer days have made the early garden very happy.  One of the baby hickory trees burst all of its buds on Friday.


We were able to begin transplanting the cooler weather crops from the basement into the garden.  Both Storage and Napa Cabbages, Brussels and Broccoli went in and then were quickly row covered to aid against the dreaded root-maggots that can plague these crops.  We began the early row cover last season and our plants were all beautiful and healthy, so we are hoping for similar success this season.


The peas are all emerging.  B planted them extra thick so that we could have some to add extra sweetness to our spring salads.


The horseradish is peeking through (foreground) and you can glimpse the ever giant mega rhubarb in the background.

B gave the girls expanded access to new pasture on Friday.  They were a bit reluctant to cross the line where the fence was previously, but once they did, they were happy to snack on dandelions and trot around snorting happily.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In the Garden:: Week of May 2


This time of year things change so quickly.  We had rain all weekend, and the long sustained drink coupled with longer days have the flowers blooming and the pollen flying.  More and more we are starting to work on outdoor tasks.  The pool has been opened, chemicals adjusted and now just needs a good cleaning.  Unfortunately some four weeks later we are still waiting to hear back from the contractor who is bidding our deck.  Hopefully this project can still be completed this season.


We had our first asparagus with supper last night and the spinach is robust.  Sidney found a fantastic recipe for a asparagus, spinach and fennel soup that was delicious!  Everyone loved it, except the boy who grumbled at the vegetable based meal (there was sausage on the side for his benefit), but I did notice that despite his grumbles, every drop was eaten.


More and more there is green in the garden, and the flats in our grow room in the basement are just bursting.  We know we must remain patient until closer to the end of the month before much of it can go outdoors, but there is a constant pull, especially after a supper made mostly of our fresh beginnings.


The lilacs have just begun to bloom, which means regardless of temperature my kitchen windows are open wide so that I can enjoy the sweet smells for the oh too short time it lasts.


B was off yesterday, so when I got home form work we had a few errands and then after school he and Sidney went for a ride.  It was late in the day when we got the notification that our bee packages had arrived, and there is a limited window to pick them up.  So off they went while I worked on above referenced soup, to get our bees.  Now all of those flowers will truly be happy.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zen #atozchallenge


As April draws to a close, this teeter totter that we have been on, while still rocking seems to be finding some homeostasis.  Much like the crazy fluxes of our Wisconsin weather, as my lilacs start to open and the peonies send robust shoots up, there is the hint of soon a warming into Spring.  The expected rain is starting to fall and going over the list in my head is not a stress, it is simply that, a list, that I know will get accomplished in due time.  As I close out this A-Z Challenge I do so in a moment of Zen, one that I will hold onto as long as I can and hope to be able to tap into and return to when needed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yawn

the windmills of La Mancha, Spain


The week is winding down, and though a busy weekend awaits, it is a good outdoor kind of busy with soccer games and garden and household tasks.  Maybe it will be intermixed with a family game or movie, some reading and grabbing a bite to eat out.  Even a busy weekend is a relaxing change.  It is less regimented by the work and school requirements of the week, and there are fewer have to get done's.  Tomorrow also marks the end of this Blogging A-Z challenge, and with that, I can stretch out stifle a little yawn and relish in a writing undertaking completed.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xander #atozchallenge


Whew, X was a tough one, and I was scrambling a bit, until my mom said "what about Xander"!  Well there it was.  This is Xander, our overly confident 18 pound farm poodle. We work closely with a wonderful rescue organization at work and he was evacuated from a puppy mill.  At 10 weeks old B did heart surgery on him to close a hole in his heart and from that time on, he was ours.  He has always been full of energy, and like many smaller breed dogs, thinks that he is three times his size! He never shies away from keeping the livestock in line or running the fences on patrol :)

Several years ago Xander was also diagnosed with Addison's Disease, which in a nutshell, is adrenal gland failure, is little body cannot keep up with cortisol production so he does not deal well with stressful situations.  He is managed well on medication and for the most part, certainly does not let anything slow him down.  In our household,  he bosses around Emerson, our boarder collie, but is pudding in the hands of our five pound kitten, Juno.  They wrestle like they are both canines, and many a time Juno comes out on top!  I took this picture last weekend he was covered in dry leaves and dust from patrolling under the porch.  He was just out and about in the sunshine watching over the homestead, as any farm poodle would do.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Wellness #atozchallenge


It is funny how things in your life just come full circle, especially with mothers and daughters.  But it also seems that some of the age old resistances minimize from one generation to the next.  When raising kids, maybe we start from that place of additional insight from day one based on our experience, or maybe it is just an evolving collective consciousness over time.  When my mom first began her journey into trying to support and heal herself as she began living with MS some 35 years ago, she looked to natural solutions.  She began yoga, educated herself on Chinese medicine, vitamin supplementation, acupuncture, QiGong, Ayurveda, etc.  My pre-teen self was exploring my own way, and in typically rebellious nature was less than open to all of this.

Fast forward to present.  We moved to our homestead to teach our kids about their food sources, to respect more free play, and try to experience life separating, if only a little, from the constant day to day pressure of the society we live in.  As an adult I absolutely love yoga, strive for natural cleaning solutions and am a DoTerra Wellness Advocate.  After an eighteen month journey learning, experimenting and experiencing I am feeling strong enough to begin to teach and share what I have learned about how to use essential oils to support our bodies' own natural systems. This is especially important because the outside factors that passively effect our health when we do not even realize it continue to grow. I have learned that the marriage of traditional medicine and the 'old ways' lead to a whole person approach that is necessary today.

 My daughter, who is an avid chef in training has become very focused on seasonal, local, natural, whole foods and how superfoods assist and affect health.  Though in true teenage form she does not listen to all that I am trying to teach her.  However, as mentioned earlier, the resistance is less than what I felt when I was her age.  She feels more comfortable researching on her own and re-wording or correcting me where she deems it necessary.  That said, she is more than willing to try what I tell her about, and for the most part, ultimately returns to it later on.  Everyone's journey into wellness is unique, personal, and embarked on for different reasons, though initially it can be overwhelming, as you gain confidence it is well worth the trip.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Variety #atozchallenge


Variety is the spice of life right?  One of the most stunning things we encountered while in Spain were the beautiful markets.  As we grow most of our own food, eat fresh while we can, try to store as much as possible, cook with wild abandon and were at the end of Winter at home, these 'merkat's' were complete eye candy.  There was everything from farmers market style groceries, to sushi, tapas, and anything else you could imagine snacking on.




The variety was both intriguing and dizzying.  The best part was we simply sampled our way through, and for at least two of our meals that is exactly what we did!



These meals were as fresh as can be, prepared in their most basic form; olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs. We could travel from booth to booth with a glass of wine or beer in hand and simply immerse ourselves in the variety laid before us.  Of course, the meal ended with a bag of hand dipped truffles, what else?

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Up #atozchallenge


U is for up...as in...In the Garden the week of April 25th.  Our weather as always is up and down.  But what is pushing up through the soft earth is amazing.  Cutting back our mammoth rhubarb severely last seems to have worked.  It is throwing up more shoots that we can imagine.  Since the stalks off of this plant have traditionally been young and tender at the size of B's arm, I suspect we will have surplus up for grabs!


The garlic is growing literally before our eyes, and this weekend the storage onion starts went into the ground.


We also cut the lavender back to the ground, no small task with 25 mature plants, but this years harvest promises to be as large as ever!  Though the sun-chokes have not emerged yet, we prepped the area in front of them for spring sugar snap peas.


Oh, and B got the potatoes in.  Though they are not up yet, we have had tremendous luck with the layering technique.  Simply plop them on the ground and cover with a layer of straw.  As they come up we will layer compost and more straw to continue to bury them as they grow.  This allows for very loose soil and a simple harvest!


Though our plan was to move asparagus this past weekend, with everything else on the to do list coupled with a full soccer schedule it did not happen.  Now with these crazy on again and off again temperatures, it has grown like crazy over the last few days.  So this year we will remain upbeat and eat a final batch from this patch :)
I got this post in just under the wire!  Do you have anything coming up in your garden yet?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for Take-Aways #atozchallenge


This morning I went to an event put on by a friend of mine called Nourish.  It was focused on wellness; incorporating mind, body, your environment and stress reduction.  We covered everything from what we put in our bodies and expose them to, to how setting priorities will also ultimately relieve stress and give us peace of mind.  There are a couple of important things to remember, especially with the competitive nature of the society that we all live in.  First, everyone is on their own journey and at a different place on the path at any given time.  Secondly, comparison is the thief of joy.


My biggest take away from the morning was that truly we are all in that different spot on the path.
We focused for a few minutes on setting three main priorities in our life.  An important part of this is learning to say no.  We were to write down things that inspired dread vs. joy and to start to consider eliminating those things that do not support our priorities.   I spoke earlier in this A-Z Challenge about detours.  Just over a year ago I came to one of those detours and quickly learned that based on my priorities that I had to say no.  It opened up the room necessary to Nourish those priorities.  As a result, today I did not have anything to write down in that area.  That made me feel a little uncomfortable, until I'd had some time to think it over, then the word take-away came to mind (a 'T' word no less!).  My biggest take-away from the morning was that truly we are all in that different spot on the path.  Even though I had nothing to write down in this area, no person is immune to needing adjustment while navigating their path.  Today's event assisted with another phase and something that I have been trying to be more conscious about, self-care.  If we do not carve out that space for ourselves, we will get lost in the commotion of day to day and potentially lose sight of those ever important priorities.

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Soil #atozchallenge


We collect all of our fall grass clippings and leaves (no small volume on six acres) and those added to the pig and chicken litter and household scraps make up much of our compost pile.  It is turned throughout the off season and watered if necessary depending on our weather.  Then over this time it breaks down into a rich soil that we use to amend garden beds at the end of the season, as well as top dress new tender plantings during growing time.

As with most springs our weather is unpredictable, with warm temperatures last weekend, a moderate week, cold and blustery today, and 75 expected for Sunday.  We just learn to roll with it, and today and tomorrow it is the perfect time to take care and adjust one of our legacy plantings, our asparagus.  A few stems are just poking through, and this is reportedly the perfect time to transplant if necessary.  When we planted them seven or so years ago, we cleared a grassy area between the barns.  As we dug, we realized it was very rocky, and probably part of an old driveway.  We worked at it, amended the soil and put them in, but they have never really thrived.  So we are now going to take advantage of the hugelkultur that Brian build last year to transplant the crowns.  A fitting task on this Earth Day

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Rain #atozchallenge


Ever since I was a kid, I loved to fall asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.  There is something about a good thunderstorm that is both exhilarating and relaxing at the same time.  Spring rains are as soothing as they are cleansing.  They wash away all of the residue left over from the long winter on surfaces and in our minds.  The early garden produce is just beginning to poke its way through and it is washed gently as it emerges from the ground.  Windows are thrown open as I smell the tell tale dampness that a rain is on its way.  The old saying goes; April showers bring May flowers, and the buds on the lilacs are plumping daily, just waiting for the right conditions to burst.  This morning was foggy and the air heavy with moisture.  It has warmed through the day allowing for the promise of a storm or two early this evening.

As I write this and think of my teenage self listening to the rain fall and a little Purple Rain on the radio.  RIP Prince.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Quotes #atozchallenge

At the entrance to the city of Cordoba, Spain

I love quotes.  Each week on my calendar I highlight something that is a mantra for the week.  Many times a phrase from something that I have read and love sticks with me over time.  I was a Sophomore in high school when I was really introduced to poetry, and Robert Frost was a favorite.  I have lived my life in a constant mantra of "and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all of the difference."  In fact a variation of that is the tagline for this blog.  I find that in reading many times a quote will stick out because of what it means to me in life at the moment.  Other times, they are simply words that offer inspiration.  Here are a few that I love, what quotes speak to you?

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 
― Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

“If you ask me, that's reason enough to keep a kitchen at the center of a family's life, as a place to understand favorite foods as processes, not just products.” 
― Barbara KingsolverAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.” 
― Lao TzuTao Te Ching

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Pottery #atozchallenge


When in Spain we relished in all of the local artistry.  I mentioned before how when we were in Barcelona that we happened across a flea market where we picked up some great art pieces.  As small scale farmers and foodies alike, we were taken by the agriculture and history of the area.  We had no idea that Spain was the number one producer of Olive Oil in the world.  Brought about in no small part by their entry into the EU where their primary investment was in olive trees.  To me, this decision especially highlighted the careful forethought of the people.  Trees were not an investment that paid off quickly and this decision was somewhat mocked by some, but they got a lot of bang for the buck, and now it has created a booming and sustainable business.  In fact the entire southern half of the country is virtually all olive trees....accept where the red soil was waiting for crocus' to pop up to yield the saffron harvest.  Needless to say we picked up amazing and inexpensive Olive Oil, Saffron and Local Honey.

Well, one thing that you should always look at while in Spain is the pottery.  We went to any number of pottery shops and perused.  But being such a special trip, we took our time and were not hasty in our purchases.




We decided on a beautiful (and usable) water jug and a platter for display either on a table or the wall.  We ended up making these purchases on the last day of the trip in Barcelona, and though we ultimately found exactly what were were looking for we almost missed out entirely.  When you are traveling and find something you like, I would encourage you to get it while you can.  There were a couple of other special items that I wanted but waited too long thinking that we would be able to find them anywhere, and we did not.  A fine balance indeed between the impulse to buy early on, and waiting just a little too long. 


It appears Juno has made the platter her nesting spot, I am afraid that she may be rather put out when we try it out on the wall!

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