Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canning Vegetable Soup

Early this morning while baking, I started chopping the vegetables for the soup base that I planned on canning. I figured since I still had my MIL's canner I would just double the batch. Not a well thought out plan. I chopped all the way through the Early Show, Rachel Ray AND Dr. Oz! Once all the chopping was finished I put everything in a pot. Or should I say I tried putting in a pot and another pot and another pot, finally finding a 16 quart stock pot that held it all. Once the soup simmered for about 15 minutes I was able to get both canners going simultaneously which worked out really well since the soup had to process for 1 hour and 25 minutes. I was able to get the kitchen cleaned up while watching the canners. It was a morning well spent, by mid-afternoon I had 13 quarts of vegetable soup to show for my efforts!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Preparing For The Dawn..

Today was a 11 hour work day. I rose early to bake and set off to tame the circus of localvores. It is tomato and corn season here. Along with squash and beans, the place I work is bordering on chaos. I would have it no other way! I feel blessed to be able to work in a place where I can help people purchase healthy foods and educate them on local sustainability.
Once home though, my other life kicked in. I fed critters and milked. I also made sure all my ingredients were ready for a vegetable soup making bonanza tomorrow. I was able to barter for organic carrots and local butter beans. Since I am in between green bean pickings, a family member traded some green beans for beef. I pulled corn from our garden. The only purchased ingredient is celery.
Dawn will come early! I will need to bake and get the soup base going to can. I hope to be able to have enough tomatoes to do a roasted garlic marinara sauce as well.
During the canning time I will share recipes tomorrow! Blessings..

Monday, June 28, 2010

Plum Crazy!

The last few days we have picked several bushels of plums. Of course we can't use all of them, so we have shared the bounty with family and friends. In addition to eating until we can hold no more, they have been turned into jams, jellies and syrups.
I have also been playing with my dehydrator again. Today I dehydrated yellow squash. It turned out really pretty. The true test will be the taste. I plan to try some later this week before I fill the pantry full! I have also made deer jerky this week as well as fill containers with herbs like parsley and summer savory. Sage and thyme are next on the list. I ordered the plastic inserts to go in the trays so that I can do fruit roll ups and vegetable powders. Maybe they will arrive before all the plums are gone?!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Potatoes and Garlic and Corn, Oh My!

Early this morning, while I was still baking, my husband headed out to start digging potatoes. He dug the "weird" ones as he calls them. Purple, through and through, a pink skin and flesh, a pink blushed Yukon and a baking potato were harvested today. The fingerlings and Kennebec are not quite ready. From the 15 pounds of seed potatoes planted, these varieties produced almost 3 bushels! After delivering bread I headed down to help. I dug the garlic that was planted last fall. From the 1 1/2 pounds planted, I harvested 10 pounds of beautiful garlic heads. I also planted shallots last fall, but these were not quite ready either. I was also able to pick quite a few tomatoes and squash.
And then there was the corn! I love fresh corn. My husband asked if it was ready and I told him the ear I ate standing in the garden was fabulous! The bulk of it will be ready about Wednesday, but we will surely be eating corn every night for as long as we can. This year for the first time we planted popcorn. It is beginning to tassel. We also have a late crop of corn in that is about 6 inches tall. In past years we have not had a lot of luck but continue to try!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eating From The Homestead

Early this morning as I wandered down to fill water buckets on yet another 90 something degree day, I paused at the garden to see what might be for supper. I picked a few eggplant, some squash and tomatoes. I noticed the potatoes and garlic are ready to be dug. (We harvested onions last week.)
I filled buckets with cool water and gathered eggs. I checked to see how the critters were fairing in this brutal heat. Surprisingly they are holding their own.
Back at the house I started to put away the eggs only to be greeted by several gallons of milk that needed a purpose in life. I skimmed the cream and made butter and used the rest to make mozzarella. A supper plan was starting to form...
Maple Lane Homestead Eggplant Casserole was born!
I thawed some ground lamb and ground beef from the freezer. I browned it along with some onions and garlic from the garden. I then added some lamb seasoning and Italian seasoning and let simmer a bit. ( love those Penzeys spices!) Next I added a pint of marinara sauce that I had canned last year and continued to let simmer a bit more. I then peeled and sliced the eggplant long ways in thick slices and dipped in the freshly beaten eggs. I browned them in a bit of butter until tender. I layered the eggplant, meat sauce and cheese 2 times to make a thick casserole and topped with fresh basil from the herb bed. Yum!
Since it was early in the day I covered it in the fridge to be cooked later and went about my chores. I fed the whey to the chickens along with the eggplant peelings. The last few days have found me handpicking Japanese beetles from the grape vines and tossing them in the milk (or whey) for the chickens to eat, and today I did the same. They love to eat the beetles and since they are determined to eat all of the blueberries and tomatoes, they are confined to the front pasture or the "penitentiary" until further notice!!
I hope you try and like our creation!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Full Freezers

The freezers are once again full of meat. The final chicken count for us was 48 (we shared 10 with a special person) and the cow we butchered along with the 2 lambs arrived yesterday. We had hoped to raise a hog this year but right now have no room to put one. It is still on my "wanna do" list tho! My son will hunt, and hopefully get a deer or two, in the fall. Most of one deer is usually made into breakfast sausage. Other than fish and the small amount of locally produced pork sausage & bacon we purchase, we do not buy meat. This amount will probably last two years, maybe more. All of the meat is vacuum sealed instead of being wrapped and keeps a long time. We will share with family. We constantly rotate and make sure to date.
That being said , it surely leaves no room to freeze any vegetables so most everything will have to be canned or dehydrated this year. The garden is starting to produce and the green beans are beginning to line the shelves..

Monday, June 7, 2010

Butchering day #2 / Final Analysis

This past Saturday we finished butchering the last of the meat birds. These were the Freedom Rangers that were not quite big enough the first go round. Most of the bird's (dressed weight) were around 3 pounds with a few hitting 4. We decided to do most of these whole, which is not the norm around here, but being that we had freezer space and these birds were not huge, it seemed like a good thing to do. Yesterday we again smoked one to see if there was any difference between these and the broilers. None, Nada. No difference in flavor or texture at all.
So here is my take on the experiment.

The broilers cost 1.10 each and the freedom rangers 2.04. A pretty significant difference except for the fact that I lost no rangers and 7 broilers. (even after all the stress of their first night!!)
Of the broilers lost, 2 died the first night, one at about 4 weeks and the rest just disappeared, we think lost to hawks due to their high visibility. The rangers were barely detectable in the high grasses in the orchard and they were penned together.
The broilers did grow out a full 2 weeks quicker. At first I thought that was a good thing, but the final two weeks the rangers only ate about 75 pounds of feed where the broilers, towards the end, were consuming almost 50 pounds a day! The rangers were just as content to go and look for things to eat as sit in front of a trough waiting for it to be refilled, which is what the broilers do.
As far as body shape goes, the broilers do have a more uniform round body, plumper legs and heavier breasts, where as the rangers have longer legs and are a bit more narrow through the breast. I had hoped that the rangers would have a "grainier" texture, like that of a wild turkey, but they did not.
Our final take: we most likely will raise the freedom rangers next year. Two weeks ago I would have said broiler, but after seeing how these birds grew on so much less feed, even though they cost more in the beginning and take a bit longer to grow out, in the long run I feel they are hardier and cheaper to raise.
A word of warning though~ lock the little buggers up the night before because once they realize what is up on butchering day, the chase is on!! It took three times the amount of time to catch them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Famous Sheep?

Several weeks ago I was approached by a young man that told me they were filming a movie based on a book written by a local doctor. The book is called Witness and written by Dr. Eric Troyer. I had heard of the book, but not read it and so I invited him to the farm. Apparently the main character is in the witness protection program and is hiding out on a sheep farm. The movie, called WitnessInsecurity is being filmed in and around our area. He told me if I agreed to do it they would make several visits and I would be invaded on shooting day. He was true to his word. The first visit came as we were putting up hay. The director, prop people and others showed up to look over the property. Nasty, sticky and sweaty I showed them around. Another evening as I arrived home from work they called needing to bring yet another group by. And so it was, we were chosen.
Today as I took care of the morning chores the trucks started to arrive. A very nice gentleman asked if I was ready for this, I said sure, but as the drive started filling up with trucks and vans and trailers and cars and campers and golf carts... and the road was lined down both sides, I questioned my sanity and thought I probably should have warned the neighbors. Oooops!!

They shot four scenes here. One was on the dock by our pond. At the end of this scene the main character sat down in a chair and was to cast a fishing line out into the pond. He kept getting the line tangled around his chair. My sister and I were watching from my kitchen window and each time would collapse in gales of laughter. Apparently he wasn't from around here...

The next scene was shot in our barn. They created a rain storm by pumping water from the pond and through a series of hoses and sprinklers overhead, it looked like rain! The bad guy snuck in the barn as the main character filled hay troughs. Finally the sheep got to make their appearance! "Johnny" herded them up the hill and fed our bottle baby. Lastly there was to be target practice with cans and bottles exploding. Of course the sheep were very interested in that and finally the prop directer yelled, "Kelly! can we loose the sheep!" Too funny and so Hollywood. It was a long day and the crew was more than kind, several were from L.A. as well as a lot of locals, but to be quite honest I was ready for them all to go home so I could finish my chores!

Here is the kicker... I am not a movie person, (Don't laugh!! I have been to a theater only twice in the last 25 years) and I probably should have been more impressed than I was. (I mean, no offense but if I am going to spend two hours doing something unconstructive it will be sleeping ;o))! After they left I sat down and studied the scrip I was handed earlier. I thought low budget meant no name actors. Seems Eddie Furlong was Johnny, Brian Krause was the bad guy, Ed Asner and Meatloaf are to be in town later this week. Hey I know who Ed Asner is!! Only because I am old... and Meatloaf!! I have that cassette around here somewhere. Here I go collapsing in gales of laughter again...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Late Memorial Day!

Yesterday, my husband woke me at 6 a.m. to weed the garden. I would have sworn it was a holiday. Oh yeah, that's right, I live on a farm. There are no holidays or vacations to speak of, but that is the life we have chosen. There are days I grumble, but usually those are the ones that begin without my fill of coffee.
I stumbled to the garden with coffee cup in hand and soon realized that water would have been way more appropriate. The air was thick with the promise of yet more rain and storms. We have been able to cultivate, but not weed the plants, and so the next few hours were spent pulling weeds and carting them off to be tossed over the bank. As I weeded one row, I looked up to see the next row of green beans was hanging full and needed to be be picked. Yikes! So soon, I thought!
At 10:30, we were down to the last row of corn when the thunder boomed and the skies darkened. I tried to finish up, but with a fraidy cat bird dog wrapped around my legs like a toddler, I gave up. ( and no he doesn't hunt ..) I headed to the barn to put up the horses, in case of hail, and the Heavens opened up. I spent the rest of the day trimming hooves on the cashmere goats and deworming. It rained until 5 :30. We had a 2 hour window, that allowed for the evening chores and milking to be finished and once again the rains set in. It rained all night long.
Today I picked green beans in between showers after I got home from work. Not even a quarter of the way through, I had an overflowing peck basket. My Mom would probably have a stroke for picking on wet vines, but at this point it is probably black spot or ROT!! Looks like canning is in the not so distant horizon..