Sunday, September 27, 2015

Welcome Fall, Late Summer Update

This morning as I  gather my thoughts I hear a gentle farmer's rain hitting on the porch roof.  There will be a little chill in the air and maybe the need to light a fire in a few days.  Many of you think, when fall comes life becomes easier on the farm.  I think not.  We shall be preparing for winter, bringing in bedding for our pasture crew,  replacing the windows in the barn, covering the tunnel which will allow for the harvest of veggies later or maybe all of the winter season.  Wood is gathered and racked but there are a few additional trees Mr. Bootsie plans to harvest, this project has been ongoing all summer, this additional wood is being stored in the woods with plans of refilling our wood racks as soon as they are emptied.

I have heard the Pope (Head of the Catholic Church) is in America along with an International Bike Race in Richmond, Virginia.  I have heard there are folks lining the streets and gathering in mass crowds.  I am so thankful these type of events do not concern me, I love my simple life here on the farm.  My pleasure comes with walking my three goats through our woods and see them enjoying what they choose to eat, then there are are feathered children who always but a smile on our face.  It seems the ducks know when we should come and let them out.  If we are in the garden working one of our girls lets out a belly honk which can be heard all over our farm.  We let them out to free range each evening about a half an hour before sundown. We hear the hawks working during the day and see them return to where they nest in the afternoons.  With this in mind I feel this is a safe time of the day for our feather children to spend time outside of their runs. 

Learning from cleaning the garden, next summer when the leaves on our squash plants begin to turn yellow I plan to remove them.  I had this on my to do list this summer but it did not happen.  The plants were very healthy and strong allowing for a good harvest.  When we began to remove the plants they were infested with squash bugs.  I filled a five gallon bucket half full of water, placing the plants in the bucket,  submerging the plants under water, those little critters would get on the side of the bucket and climb to get out of the water.  It was a field day for me, I did those things in, just in case any made it, we rot the plants and use them for compost.  The buckets I use I can seal so I do not fear any getting away.   I have tried burning, but the plants do not seem to want to burn and I question how many bugs get away while I am trying to burn them.
Winter Squash Harvest 2015

Lessons from Momma Hen.  As I shared with you in the past, this is first hatching for our little momma hen. I was concerned how she would care for the chicks but she was an excellent mom.  We have been putting the three of them, momma and two little ones, in the duck run each day.  In the afternoon everyone free ranges, night time they return to the brooder where momma and chicks spend the night.  That was until Thursday, September 24th, Momma came into the coop, went into the section where the big girls stay and proceeded to the roosting pole.  She landed herself and began to call the chicks to come up with her.  Knowing it was a bit much for them, I placed the chicks beside her, I questioned if I did the correct thing, I have never allowed chicks to move in with the adult hens at such a young age.  These are going to be big birds in comparison to their momma, in fact they are just about as large as she is right now and still growing.  Now she is a small bird but when any other bird has bothered her chicks, she took them on.  One evening, one of the largest hens in coop waited for me because she had had an encounter with Momma Hen.

My baby chicks, all grown up.
Little roo on left and little hen to the right
In the kitchen, this summer I began trying to use the garden to table theory, pick the garden, plan my meal, use all veggies as fresh as possible.  We have had some wonderful meals.  The freshness of picking and eating within a few hours has made me appreciate my hours spent working the garden.  I have preserved some of our harvest, shared with others, fed the pasture crew and kept plenty on our table.  My mind is already busy thinking of the garden in 2016.  I have a few ideas on making the garden better, but first I need to bed the garden down for the winter.

Taking everything into account, I think this season was rewarding,  Mr. Bootsie made a move into garden helping more than before, he has always helped with prep work but stayed away during the harvest, but this season you could find him picking the garden.  I can always use an extra pair of hands and his assistance was welcomed, even if I forgot to tell him.  I was pleased we finally we able to hatch 2 little chicks, not so sure about my roosters, but this will work itself out.  There are not enough hens for 2 roos and someone will need to go.

Time for me to hurry on my way, garlic and onions to plant, squash to roast, I can always find something to do here on our little farm.  Until...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Comfort Zone

I have spent some time visiting around the web.  Reading a number of homesteading and preserving blogs, visiting with folks who ferment veggies, make kefir, have gardens and animals.  I think it is time for me to make a number of new friends.  I am exciting about the knowledge others are so willing to share.

I know I spent way too much time in the kitchen, too much time in the garden and not enough time just resting.  I climbed a major mountain this year as I began my 7th decade on this earth.  Most days I am on my feet about 12 hours a day.  On my weaker days it is less but for someone my age this is one good accomplishment.  Mr. Bootsie says the only way to get me to slow down is to take me away from our farm.  I am not sure this works for me quite like he feels it should.  As we are riding down the road my mind never stops working.  I see this or that and maybe it would work on our farm.

I am at a place I really wanted to be, I think, most of my life.  I just never knew how much it meant to me until I returned to the country.  When we came here I knew it was a time for me to do all of the things I wanted to enjoy or thought I would enjoy.  I had a garden, well, a postage stamp garden in my yard in the city.  The garden fed us and I was able to preserve veggies.  I didn't have a lot of variety or many plants, so when I was able to have a third of an acre in garden, I was pleased.  The list of what I was going to grow went on and on.  My problem was this land was covered with trees.  All of the trees were removed and raised beds were put in.  Our first mistake was going to the mound of topsoil place and buying topsoil.  Ten years later I am still working on that compacted soil with manure and  compost trying to get a balance in the soil.  After that horrible mistake, I built my beds with composting leaves, and my black gold I was making in my tumbler and manure.  These beds are very productive.

Next came the chicken coop.  It was built with lumber from our property, milled by a local farmer and built by him.  Then came the goats, a barn built and Mr. Bootsie built the goat stall.  Pasture was put in.  I really felt like this was a farm.  Now I realize I have a problem.

Is my true love the kitchen?  Is this where I want to be?  I find so much satisfaction working in the kitchen, preparing food for storage,  learning a new recipe.  I watch the cooking shows on TV when time allows and always learn something or have a memory stirred in my mind.

This last couple of weeks my mind has been working.  I was able to make one of my favorite dishes from my childhood summers.  Momma just called them tomatoes, so tomatoes they will be. Many of you would called them a fancy name but I like tomatoes.  Recipe link included

We make a number of gravies and creamed soups.  I have learned even if the recipe doesn't tell you the milk  or water should be warmed it you start with a roux, things work and come together much better if the liquid is warm.  I have been having the base for my broccoli cheddar soup (recipe link) break and the end results was a very soupy, thin soup.  My mind returned to thinking about how my momma did this, I find myself standing in her kitchen beside her stove.  There was always a tea kettle on the wood stove and this was the source of the water used when making gravies and soups.  The light went on...The water in the kettle was always warm/hot as the kettle was on the stove.  Needless to say, this week, the sausage gravy went together quickly and the base of the broccoli cheddar soup did not break, we had a nice thick soup.

I am learning, that I need to find pages to read and visit which offer information about what I am now interested in doing.  There are so many information sources and it takes time.  I want more time to spend with my animals, I want time away from the kitchen, and propping up my feet for a few minutes would be a treat.  I have a farm and I need to find the balance.

No matter how much is done, there are always many more tasks waiting to be addressed.  I have found I cannot handle the heat during the summer.   Avoiding the heat does slow down production.  This year I have just taken this in stride, not allowing myself to get concerned when tasks were left undone.   The animals have food, water and are checked on several times a day, the garden is watered and some bug control done on a daily basis along with harvesting our crops, this is about all I can manage on the super hot days.  I learned this year, the goats, ducks and chickens enjoy the harvest of the garden, it is okay for me to give them snaps, squash, tomatoes and other veggies.  I really do not have enough at one time to take to the food bank and driving there would be another hour out of my day.  I think I made my way to the top of this mountain as I hate to see food wasted after all of the work has gone into producing the crops, feeding our animals is not wasting the food, it helps with our feed bill.

I am trying to find a balance, I believe I moved in the right direction this summer.  I have full shelves in the pantry, the freezer is packed to the top, the drying rack has garlic and onions cured.  This was a good season for our garden.  In fact I had the best garden ever.  Working on the land for 11 years is paying off and I find comfort in walking outside collecting my meals from the garden.  We have enjoyed an array of fresh veggies on a daily basis.  I just enjoy the garden to table movement on our farm.  For me this is my comfort zone, the balance will come or not but this has been one delicious summer.