Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nubian Goats

After much thought and discussion, it had been decided to quit raising Saanen dairy goats and bring in spotted Nubians. Mom has always loved this breed. Me, not so much as I sometimes find them noisy and a little on the needy side. However, after purchasing a spotted doe last fall, decided I could probably learn to love them as much as she. Mom has several older registerable does, with heavy milking lines. There is a lot of paperwork to catch up on but we should have registrations straightened out soon and have the herd up and going by late spring.
This is Squilma, as a youngster..the combined name of Screech and Wilma! Yes, she is very vocal.
This is Betty, though not spotted carries spots, definitely more laid back and quiet.
Off to a good start, I think, with 4 kids born in the last week. All of these from her original herd. Two does, Noel and Mistletoe along with the boys from yesterday. Cozy under the heat lamps..
 So, this is the second new venture this year for Maple Lane Homestead!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It felt good to get back to some semblance of normalcy today. I like routine! An early morning baking, cleaning the kitchen and then outside to enjoy an unseasonably warm day. I perused the garden and picked large amounts of kale and spinach. I pulled a couple of spring onions to add to the salad I will be fixing tonight. After weeks of heavy food we are craving "green".
I also planted some garlic in one of the cold frame beds. It was shipped late and with all the rain, it has been to wet to plant in the garden. Two varieties of mid-season hardneck....
The highlight of the day was discovering a set of twin nubian goat kids born last night. Two spotted bucks. They were born on the hill at Mom's. She has no power there so we walked momma goat and babies down the hill to my barn to be in a stall with heat lamps. Meet Leon (backwards for noel) and Buddy, named for the Christmas move "Elf". Nubians? Yes the latest change/addition to the homestead. More tomorrow!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Blessings

I hope everyone had a joyful and blessed Christmas! I know we here on the homestead did. The month of December has once again flown by. Thanksgiving was no sooner over than the plans for the annual "Turkey Cookin" and Christmas party started. Planning, decorating and cooking have consumed us. By the time it was over, Christmas was just a few short days away. It was filled with family and friends, for which I am truly thankful. My boys were both here, unlike Thanksgiving and I felt my circle complete.
One of my favorite gifts was this Christmas tree platter made and given to me by my niece. She is a budding young artist that will graduate in the spring and head off to art school in the Fall. Thank you Crystal!
Of course, Christmas isn't only for kids. The dogs enjoyed their gifts as well!
Ziva and her stocking...
Dallas, the grand dog, wearing his Christmas sweater opening his bag of toys..
Yes, a good time was had by all.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Ziva!

Today Ziva turned one. Hard to believe. So she had a birthday party! She and Tucker each got a quarter pounder with cheese. Can't imagine what she wished for tho~

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Pies

Today was pie making day. I always make them the day before Thanksgiving so I can take my time. I like to cook the pumpkin fresh and make crusts from scratch. This year I was lucky enough to find some local lard so I was excited to try it out.

Lard makes such a lovely crust to work with! Now cooling on the counter are a chocolate pecan and a pumpkin pie,
And headed for the freezer a large bowl of pumpkin!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meals In a Jar #1

I ran across this book recently and am really excited to try several of the recipes out. This one "Muffins 4 Ways" was by far the easiest and I think in addition to making lovely hostess gifts will be a quick and easy breakfast. I baked a batch to see how they tasted and they were good.
Certainly real eggs and real milk would make them richer tasting but for a quick fix, camping or a hurried trip to the mountains they would be perfect. Everything is in the jar including the oil (in packets) so all you add is a cup water, An excellent addition to our emergency food stores as well since they are vacuum sealed and the shelf life is long.
After that little experiment a good friend arrived and we headed to the garden to weed the spinach. Heavy rains due in tomorrow will make garden work a messy job so I wanted to get that done before hand. After that, she helped set up a Facebook page for the farm. I am not schooled in the way of social media, so she is holding my hand in this venture! Anyway, I guess I am supposed to say, "Like us on Facebook?!!)

Friday, November 21, 2014

The crock pot has simmered 24 hours a day since Monday producing large amounts of rich stock. The last bones went in the morning. This week I have frozen 7 luscious quarts of stock and have consumed at least couple more.
The kitchen has smelled incredible.
The freezer shelf is full of stock and waiting for a large pot of soup to be made. Making stock this way is so economical, healthy and easy! You can make some yourself I have posted instructions here on my eating blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 It was with fear an trepidation I uncovered the lettuce today. Oh happy day! It survived last night which for us was the coldest night on record- a frigid 14*. The kale did not fair very well and looks pretty bad. It will rebound, I just don't know how long it will take. Surprisingly, the spinach looked unfazed and I was able to pick a large bag once the temps warmed a bit. We are on a weather roller coaster and though the next few days will have below average temps there is nothing in the forecast like last night.
I am so pleased with the performance of the row cover I plan to order more to have for future use. If I had only covered part of the kale we would have had plenty to use until the other recovered. Lessons learned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trying To Save The Lettuce

I had to work today but was able to get off a bit early. The main reason was to check the critters, though Mom had filled all the water buckets, and cover the lettuce. The temps are predicted to go down into the low teens. I am not ready for this!!
And so with 4 layers of row cover, a layer of greenhouse plastic and several blankets I did a "please don't die dance" headed to the house and hoped for the best. We will see what tomorrow brings-

Monday, November 17, 2014

A long day in the kitchen. Processing three deer was quite a job. We have a system worked out with Jill and I cutting up the meat and Mom vacuum sealing it. Still it took 6 1/2 hours. A couple hours in I started the crock pot with bones, onions, garlic and mushrooms to cook down for stock. With the amount of bones we have there will be no need to purchase any store bought stock for quite a while, if at all this winter. At the end of the day over 100 packs of meat were ready to go in the freezer. Jill and I split most, Mom took a couple of packs as Dad doesn't eat it....well, not knowingly ;-)
Around 4:30 Mom and I left to tend our critters and I needed to cover the lettuce. Tonight is going to be in the low 20's. So far we have managed to keep it alive. It's been a tough battle though. We are experiencing January weather in November. A wild start to the winter here on the homestead. It certainly makes us wonder what the future holds!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Though cold outside, sis and I spent a while in the warmth of the greenhouse potting up the blackberry bushes and grapevines. We planted them in recycled 1 gallon pots and will wait until spring to put them in a permanent place outside. Normally here in the sunny south they could go in the ground now but we are having unseasonably cold weather and I fear they would not survive that so early in their planting. So, for the winter they will hang out here where they are protected.
We also planted a large flat of lettuce. And check out that beautiful pot of parsley in the middle of the pic! It's ready to harvest and add to the stuffing on Thanksgiving. Yum.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Luke was home from school this weekend and he and my brother in law went to the VA farm to hunt. Home they came with 3!! deer. Monday will definitely be a busy day cutting up and packaging it all. It took the boys the better part of the the day to get the deer cleaned and quartered so I spent most of the day cleaning and organizing. I had to rearrange some freezer shelves to make room for the large amount of meat we will soon have. So exciting! 
Our Internet has been extremely spotty lately and after a second long phone call finally "convinced" our server that a tech needed to come out. An hour later I received a call one was on his way...gotta love the power of persuasion! We are now fixed and good to go. 
A quiet but productive day here on the homestead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Up early this morning to get chores done before heading off to teach the second a bread class, this one an afternoon session. While feeding, the Fed Ex guy showed up with all of the fruit trees that were ordered several weeks ago. Being that part of them were bare root and a extremely cold weekend was predicted I knew I would be planting after class!
Class went well, and I got home around 4. Shovel in hand, I hurried to the orchard and started digging holes. It was dark when I finished up but 6 new apple trees are now planted and waiting to wake up in the spring.
I had also ordered 12 blackberry bushes and 6 grape vines. These arrived looking absolutely gorgeous but unfortunately the weather will not allow them to go in the ground now. I plan to pot them in gallon pots this weekend and put them in the greenhouse for the winter. I also have 2 fig trees, a peach and several damson plum (those gifted from a friend) to plant this weekend as well. Yay for edible landscaping!  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Today sis, mom and I spent the morning cutting up and packaging the deer my brother-in-law shot over the weekend. Though not pros, we do a pretty good job and when finished were rewarded with lots of burger, stew and roasts. And as always the crockpots were piled full of bones and allowed to cook overnight to produce a dark rich and nourishing broth.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Today I taught the first in a series of bread classes for the county extension office. They have a wonderful huge kitchen and lots of interest in bread making. So I packed up my grinder, grains and mixer and off  I went. Bless this class's heart they were my guinea pigs. A little bit of trail and error with their ovens and water temps but it was lots of fun and I hope I have created some new bakers!
Once back home I headed to the barn to check critters and get chores done. I harvested some beautiful lettuce for our grilled chicken salads tonight and then off to the kitchen to finally finish up the jalapeno peppers harvested on Sunday.
By day's end 13 jars of peppers were canned. The last of the summer's bounty tucked away for winter's use. For the next few months we will enjoy what the winter garden provides in addition to all the goodies preserved over the summer.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Preserving Peppers

Today I started on the pile of peppers harvested yesterday. The red bell peppers were roasted and frozen.
The green bells were dehydrated.
And the rest of the sweet peppers chopped and frozen. In retrospect I wish I had dehydrated more of the sweet peppers. I have stumbled on a book called "Meals in a Jar" that I am wanting to play around with...more on that later though!
The jalapenos will have to wait until Wednesday since I ran out of time and I plan to pickle those. Another busy day on the homestead.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The First Killing Frost

I had planned to cover the peppers as tonight was to be the coldest night before the weather warmed back up but a sad surprise greeted me at the garden today. The last of the peppers and eggplant had been struck down by Jack Frost.
We gleaned the plants and I will be preserving them in the coming days.
The lettuce came through as it is a little tougher however, in preparing for  the mid 20's tonight a row cover was placed over it. Notice the kale to the left? It is beautiful. Time for kale chips. Yum.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A cold, nasty day today. The wind was blowing a gale and the cold rain, though much needed, made for a miserable chore time. It has been such a warm week some of the young goats seemed to be caught off guard so I moved them to the barn where it was warmer and offered them extra hay. To top it off, I was having the kitchen painted and banned from that room so there was no baking or cooking much. ( I did sneak on a chicken for dumplings tonight!) And so, I took the opportunity to spend some time in my studio catching up on paperwork and designing new handouts for the bread classes I am starting next week in conjunction with the extension office. Yes, I hope to be filling the community with bread bakers!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Another fence line was completed today. With the threat of rain tomorrow, Doug, with the help of some of his employees hurriedly sowed grass on the newly graded banks. By the end of the day everything looked neat and tidy.
Still a lot of old fence to replace but this section was the worst of it and as soon as the rye grass toughens up a bit the sheep can start grazing this pasture.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Our first little harvest from the cold frames today! Baby lettuces and kale made for a delightful and sweet salad.

And even better, when putting the garden to rest  for the winter, we discovered a patch of cucumbers that had seeded down from the summer planting. We harvested several large cukes and it is covered in dozens of tiny ones. With no frost in sight we should be able to enjoy a taste of summer a bit longer.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

One the the new fence lines was totally completed today. This connects two smaller pastures together and also leads up to the barn for shelter. The original lower field had no shelter unless we took down a section of fence. Very inconvenient and made for a lot of extra work. The paddock area it connects to will have to be resown at some time. Right now it houses my appaloosa horse that left and came back after loosing his eyesight, and this is his safe haven for the time being.
The next fence project will be started in the coming week. It will take a bit longer as the whole line has to be rerun. The posts are old and have for the most part rotted. We plan to cross fence it as well making it into two smaller pastures for rotating the sheep. My goal is to have a total of 6 pastures completed by spring giving us the ability to rotate every 10 days, allowing the pastures to rest and hopefully cutting down on parasite issues even more in the sheep.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We made a trip to the Virginia farm today to relocate Luke's deer stand. It was very windy and quite cold if we weren't moving. We stayed warm scouting for tracks and rubs on trees and finally found a good spot. His stand is ready and waiting for him when he gets home and we are hopeful our work pays off with a couple of deer in the freezer.

The color of the trees was breath taking and truly a sight to behold. Fall there is at it's peak!
The apple tree was loaded with bright red apples ready for harvesting. We picked 2 large bags full and would have picked more had I remembered to bring baskets!
Apple jelly and apple butter will be put on the to-do list this week. Yum!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Saving Seed and Harvesting Dried Beans

I spent part of the day shelling out the dried beans and okra seed that we will save for planting next year. I have black eye peas, two types of crowders and okra. Crowder peas are a wonderful addition to a homestead garden. They can be eaten green, as a shell bean, frozen, canned or dried. They are a true workhorse in the garden for the homesteader. After freezing all we wanted, I had enough leftover of the dried to store 3 lbs. in the pantry for eating this winter.
Earlier I dried and saved seed from the huge banana peppers I froze. We have a  nice stash of Grandpa's watermelon seeds. Happily this year we are adding an old timey pumpkin seed grown for many years by the nice folks that run the local feed store.
Another new seed saved was a green bean called Greasy Bean. I planted about 6 seeds on a trellis in the herb garden and as they have dried, shelled and saved them. I should have enough to actually eat next year! Greasy beans are a longtime favorite of the mountain community, it can be eaten or canned as young green bean. Later stages shelled out, sometimes called "shellies" and cooked fresh. One of my favorite ways of seeing it preserved is by stringing the green beans on a piece of thread and allowing to dry. They are called "leather britches." Next year I hope to see several long strings of leather britches hanging in my pantry!