Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Holiday Happenings

Well it has certainly been a busy month.
For our Thanksgiving feast we butchered a two year old Blue Slate tom. He turned our beautifully even at that age. The legs were a bit tough (probably from chasing me!) but no worries there as that was a base for soup later in the weekend. We were blessed to have 25 friends and family at our table in ages ranging from 4 to 75.
With Thanksgiving coming so late, Christmas seemed to catch us off guard and it felt like we were at a dead run for the next few weeks. The annual turkey cookin' was held for Doug's employees, friends and family.
The grills practically moaned with all the delicious food. 16 turkeys, 8 chickens, 2 pork shoulders, a prime rib, soup and beans and potatoes. Oh my! Snacks galore, cookies and cakes...well, as you can imagine, everyone left stuffed. As usual a good time was had by all. Again we felt so blessed.
Next was Christmas. Another turkey was butchered, this time a Naragansett. It was two as well and was just as good as the Thanksgiving bird. With two get togethers on Christmas eve and the multitudes here at the house on Christmas Day the whirlwind continued up until 9 that evening. We closed the doors and took a deep breath.

This past week we have taken time to catch up on chores. We have had some pretty heavy rains over the last month and at some point our drain pipe at the pond was clogged. With another 5 inches of rain the pond has risen to an unaccepted level for the safety of the animals and they literally had to be moved to higher ground. I am still unable to do much wrestling with the critters so the boys caught the sheep before we moved to do a quick eye check for parasites. All looked great except for one. Yeah! The six bred dairy goats were moved to a wooded pasture high on the hill. Though not thrilled with the move they did finally settle in and start munching on fallen leaves. For the most part, all is quiet here on the homestead.

I am continuing to heal from the accident. It is a slow process and I am not a patient person. Some days are better than others but I have a huge support system in my family and friends and that keeps me grounded.

We are looking forward to a great new year in 2014!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sitting On The Sidelines

10 days ago I was rear-ended by a car doing about 45 mph. At first I just felt stiff  but as the days worn on a constant pain in my lower back developed and was getting progressively worse. I finally made the dreaded trip to the Dr's office. A pinched nerve and damage to the sacrum he said. Physical therapy, anti inflammatories, heat, ice. No bending, no lifting...at this point my eyes began to glaze over and I was trying really hard not scream "Do you know what I do!" Instead tears seeped from the corners of my eyes.
Doc asked if I loved what I do. The words tumbled.. Yes, I love what I do. It is what I have done for the last 20 years. It is my life. I am a homesteader. A small time farmer. A caretaker of the earth and my animals.
I bend, I lift, I don't sit on the couch and watch tv. I was angry.

My dear hubby and Mom have stepped up and are doing the heavy chores. I am trying to be patient. I am trying to be good. And for the most part I have. Only occasionally pushing the limits when no one is looking.
And so for now I am feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs, feeding the dogs and baking LOTS of cookies.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fall Broccoli

The Fall broccoli has started to come in. We love fresh broccoli, frozen not so much, so I fix it several nights a week when in season. We eat it raw, make broccoli salads, steam it and just recently found a divine beef and broccoli dish that is now prepared about every other week. As usual I changed a few ingredients to make it more homestead friendly. Check it out here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

All Things Pumpkin

My mom recently gifted me with some lovely local pie pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are tan in color and tend to have more "meat" to them.
I had purchased a beautiful decorative bread pan from William Sonoma and couldn't wait to try it out so I cooked the smallest pumpkin. I made 8 pumpkin breads over the next week. I just couldn't stop myself, they were just so darn cute!
Then I stumbled on a baked pumpkin donut recipe. Little donuts, big donuts, all so yummy!
I did share with friends and family but finally they and my husband said enough! So, I froze the second pumpkin in 2 cup increments for future pumpkin projects. One lonely pumpkin to go..... This one will be pies for Thanksgiving and maybe one more of those cute little breads before the pan is retired for the season.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Impromptu Shearing

A late evening email last night let us know the shearers would be arriving today after noon some time, sent us scurrying. The barn was knee deep in hay and had to be scraped and the sheep were scattered here and there in several pastures. Austin sheared alone this time as Jess is expecting their first baby and has been banned from shearing. 3 1/2 hours and 18 sheep later we had the most magnificent pile of fleeces!! I am sooo excited! These are probably the best we have ever had and I can't wait to play with them. I will probably have about half commercially spun into "Lopi" yarn and the other carded into roving for all the hand spinners out there.
The sheep on the other hand are not near as excited as I am... me thinks they think it is a bit chilly to be naked!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Harvesting Ginger

A few months ago I read an article on growing ginger. Shortly after that I found some local fresh baby ginger, so I bought some, handed it over to my sister to put it in a pot to see what happened. It took quite a while to germinate but finally poked it's head out of the dirt. Later I found a piece at the grocery store that had lots of sprouts that was put in a pot as well. It came up much quicker. For the most part it has lived in the greenhouse under a bench with little care. Today we decided to see what had happened over the last few months. The ginger had definitely grown and the rhizomes had probably tripled in size. We decided to replant most and only keep a few fresh pieces.We trimmed the tops, and divided the rhizomes into 3 pots with hopes of having fairly good harvest next year.
Though not real familiar with growing ginger I do know it likes filtered shade and heat (of course!). It is relatively easy to grow, just liking to be kept moist with a splash of fertilizer every now and then. We will see what the next harvest brings!

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Memory of Ringo

It was a long hard battle fought. It started Labor Day weekend. Ringo was unable to stand and after hours at the emergency vet we were told he had the spine of a 13 year old. He was 8 1/2. Pain meds and many, many trips to the vet seemed to help some. After a month though and knowing he was still in horrible pain, I had to make the difficult decision to let him go. It has been three weeks but feels like yesterday....
Sometimes we connect with an animal. We connected from day one and though I have other dogs that I dearly love, Ringo was different. For 8 1/2 years he was my loyal shadow and was never more than a few feet away. When I wasn't home he would wait at the gate, follow me to the house and as soon as I got out of the car he would greet me with a present. Sticks, shoes, gloves, always a welcome home gift. I feel lost without my shadow and my heart is broken but I know he is not in pain anymore. 
We buried Ringo by the gate where he faithfully spent many hours waiting for me. I am in the process of creating a memorial garden. Goodbye my friend.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jack Came To Visit

Jack Frost that is. Yes last night we had a record low of 29* and all the stragglers from the summer were zapped. Of course it is time, but the first frost always makes me a little sad. No more bits of basil, the last okra, the little cucumber vine that seeded down and had itty bitty cukes on it, all gone. For now, anyway.
A good thing Mr. Frost did was to kill all the pesky aphids that have been happily munching on the kale and collards. We are actually hoping for a cold winter. The last few have been so mild that the mosquitoes never died!
Today I gleaned the garden. Amongst all the sad dark foliage there were tons of peppers to be picked. We will enjoy them every way possible for the next while and I will freeze the ones not eaten for soups, stews and cornbread.
I also picked quite a large mess of butter peas. Those will be a tasty treat as well.
While picking I saw the broccoli is starting to form heads, spinach and kale are ready to harvest as well as the leaf cabbage.
The homestead will settle into a sleepy lull for the next few months. At least on the animals front. The sheep are separated into breeding groups and the goats are not far behind. The garden is easy to maintain through the winter. This will give us some extra time to hopefully finish bigger projects.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Edible Landscaping

I guess I could have planted pansies in the pots beside the gate leading to the kitchen herb garden/ someday cold frames (no they are STILL not done) but I opted for lettuce and spinach. Sometimes its just kinda nice to step out the door and pick a salad. Oh, I like pansy blooms. I just don't find them near as tasty as salad greens!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Sky Is On Fire

I just had to share these beautiful pictures!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saving Seed

Today we harvested a couple of dried bushels of the new crowder pea we planted this year. It is called Red Ripper. It is not really a new pea, in fact a very old pea, whose seed was shared with us from a very old farmer. We were thrilled to try it and the family agreed it was one of the best we have eaten. So, excited to add this to our seed bank, we are keeping LOTS of seed. After shelling, we will put the seeds in jars and store in the fridge. We won't need all the seeds we shell out next year, but always keep extra in case of a crop failure. This pea was so delicious fresh we are going to try eating them dried as well, so that was another reason for the quantity saved.

I have also let the okra go and we will harvest that seed once it is very dry on the plant. (Some have already started to dry.) I decided on this plant because of the multi-branching genetics it showed. Most of the okra branches somewhat but this one was awesome.
Another seed we usually save is a purple hull crowder that we call JO's pea, for the farmer that shared those with us about 15 or 16 years ago. This year we had a great fresh harvest but not any dried seeds. We think maybe the squirrels harvested those for us. Not to worry though there are plenty stashed from years past. The squirrels have wreaked havoc on the farm this year and come cooler weather we will be harvesting some of them! Recipes will be posted on the eating blog ;o))

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Digging Sweet Potatoes

Because of the early torrential rains and all of the washing in the new garden we were not sure there would be any sweet potatoes to harvest. The boys had planted 50 plants but I knew at least half had been swept away. Today we dug and were very surprised (pleasantly so!) with the harvest. About 2 bushels!
The first step in harvesting sweet potatoes is to spread them out in a dry spot for a week or so to allow the cuts and abrasions to heal. After that they can be put in baskets and moved to a basement or storage area to cure for another 6 weeks or so. This allows the potatoes to sweeten. Fresh potatoes can be used but they are not yet sweet and extra sugar would need to be added to any recipe calling for them. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Chicken Rescue

It had been a long busy day. Doug and I were taking a few moments to relax on the patio. I keep hearing a baby chicken peeping. I finally decided that it was a distress peep and went to check. Sure enough Mama Bird was running from her brood of babies, to a drain pipe, back to babies. A chick had proceeded to fall into the pipe. I stuck my arm in to try and get it but the pipe was way too deep.
Doug was not thrilled he was going to have to lend a hand in the daring rescue......
But he did. First one section was removed, then another and finally another. Almost 3 feet had to be dug up. Finally baby was rescued and is now happily back with Mama Bird!
Though happy baby is fine, Doug was muttering about it was going to be much harder to repair the pipe than digging it up. Of course, it will!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall is Coming!

It had been a busy couple of weeks here on the homestead.
The fall hay finally went down,  619 bales! Because of all the rain this year, the pastures have stayed lush and green and not a lot of hay has been fed so we capped off the barns and the rest was sold.

The fall garden finally went in. Cabbage, broccoli, collard plants that my sister started in the greenhouse were planted. We sowed kale, spinach, beets and rutabaga from seed. I still need to get radishes, carrots, lettuce and garlic in the ground. The garlic has been ordered but has yet to ship.

There was a dog crisis over Labor day weekend. I found one of the bird dogs unable to stand. We spent 5 hours at the emergency vet. Two days later and not much improvement, I finally got him to our regular vet. She is such a miracle worker. Lots of fluids and treating him for numerous issues, he has become his old self again. It was touch and go for a few days and though we really don't know which treatment was the one to get him back on his feet, I'll take it!

Finally this past weekend, Doug and I snuck away for 30 hours to a little B&B a couple of hours away. We spent hours hiking and enjoying Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock,11 miles total!
A pic of the cabin and of the view from our sidewalk..

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Always Re-Doing!

I have worked on the kitchen herb bed all week. After several hours of weeding and cleaning out dead and dying herbs I have made the decision to plant them in a raised bed. I think most have died due to the wet summer. Herbs really don't care for "wet" feet. However, I discovered another possible reason--it seems with Luke's little dog home this summer my dogs were holding "pee parties" out there! Eeewww! So, they will be planted in an unreachable place and the herb bed will become a perennial flower bed.
Most of the plants were divided from other spots in the yard but I also lucked up on a trip to Lowe's and found lots of perennials and day lilies that had been marked down to 1.50! I even found a huge camellia for 5.00. Not for that bed of course, but surely somewhere...
I did harvest some herbs from containers. I hung them on an old ladder on the porch to dry.
I also planted a few more in a pot until the new bed is finished...plans are that will be this coming weekend.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pantry Purge

Last weekend outside chores were put on hold once again due to rain. So, I decided to attack the pantry. It was once again a mess after having things tossed in it all summer. I am always amazed at how long this project takes. One would think I would learn to keep it organized as I go. Not.
The finished product. It will stay organized, it will stay organized...

And as promised Doug finished all the windows upstairs. I know what the coming week's project will be...putting my studio back together after many months of disarray.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Getting Ready For Fall

Today we started getting the garden ready for Fall. The corn was bushed hogged down and then tilled in. We started dismantling the tomato stakes and trellises. I had really  hoped to sow some kale and spinach but we will have to wait until the grass and weeds die a bit. Once again rain is in the forecast so I am not sure when that will be!
One of the few things that has done well this year was our Cinderella pumpkins. They are just beautiful! Looks like some are ready to harvest.
We finally have some watermelon ready too...
I really have to wonder how anyone has a watermelon ready on the Fourth of July?!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pretty Porches

Finally, after almost 9 months of remodeling we are almost done. I spent today tiding up, rearranging and piddling with the front and back porches. Last weekend the boys finished wiring and putting in some added lights to the screened porch which is now a sun room, thanks to the new windows. I hope we will be able to use it year round. I worked a couple of extra days and with the added income purchased a cabinet that was on my wish list. It houses all of the bird seed that used to live in a plastic tub.
One of the new lights shines on the plants that was once a very dark corner.
 The Fu Chest pulls out and makes a bed. A fun place to sleep under the ceiling fans and listen to the night creatures.
All together..Yeah!
The front porch after a good cleaning and adding my old goat wagon to the corner...
Doug has promised to finish painting the windows in my studio this weekend and once that is done and it is put back together we are done!!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Pile Of Peppers

Well, I can't complain about the pepper harvest this year. They have suddenly exploded with lots of fruit. Peppers of all kinds were harvested today.

Alma Paprika Peppers~
These were dehydrated and ground for homemade paprika.

Jalapenos ( 2 varieties)~
Of course these were pickled!

Orange bells~
Roasted and frozen for the yummy roasted pepper sauce I serve on pasta, chicken or just lick off the spoon!

Cajun bells~
Also roasted and frozen.

Banana Peppers~
The ones we didn't eat fresh were pickled.

Stuffed with cheese, broiled and consumed immediately.

Pizza Peppers~
These are a sweet pepper that taste like a jalapeno without the heat. Most were chopped and frozen to add to soups and cornbread.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

More Wind, More Damage

Another storm blew in today. That puts us at almost 2 inches for the week. With it came high winds and the yard we had just finished mowing and picking up, was once again littered with branches and leaves.

To add insult to injury, a large branch fell on the fence. The new fence we just repaired from the flood 6 weeks ago!
Ugh, ugh, ugh. Fortunately this was a pretty quick repair and the only escapee was the dog.