Monday, May 11, 2009

Independence Days Update #3

1. Plant something - We spent entirely too much time first mowing and then biking that the weekend planting got delayed. I'll be doing most of it today, after work. The plan is to get some more carrots and parsnips planted, and some more lettuce. We also need to sit down and plan out what goes into the last couple of unplanted box and how we are going to organize the row garden area before next weekend arrives. I spent quite a bit of time hoeing up weeds in the row garden area in prep for next weekend's marathon planting session AND we covered up the bottom of some of our potato plants that are already getting big. I also discovered that the rosemary that I cut from our neighbors bush has taken root, so I'm very excited about that.

2. Harvest something – outside of cutting some more lilacs, there hasn't been much harvesting going around yet. I did cut down many (painful) armfuls of wild black berry canes to feed the goats. Not quite a human harvest, but a harvest none-the-less!

3. Preserve something – no preservation this week.

4. Reduce waste – Switched out my autodish soap this week. I was using this HUGE canister that I'd bought at Costco over a year ago and it's finally gone. I've now moved from little tablets in plastic bags, to Ecover biodegradeable detergent that comes in only cardboard packaging (that is recycleable). I also have started using baking soda and white vinegar in place of fabric softener. As soon as we run out of laundry soap, I'm going to refill the big canister from the auto dish soap with a borax mix (recipe from a book I got for Christmas) to use instead. Eventually, I want to replace all my cleaners with homemade ones - reducing what I need to buy and what we need to throw out. If we can only find time to make goats milk soap - it'll reduce one more thing we'll need to buy, too!

5. Preparation and Storage - I am signed up for the food storage class. We also got out on the bikes this weekend - after a tough day of farm work, we had a tough day of biking. I can barely move today but what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? We also stocked up on some pet food - but I need to invest in a better storage method for it besides just stacking up the feed bags in the garage. It's fine for now while it's cool in there but it's not going to be a good method when the summer heat hits.

6. Build Community Food Systems - Not much to report on this front. Local farmers markets open next weekend though! We are actually thinking that we may need to sign up for a booth later this summer so I'm going to make a point of looking into how we do this before next weekend.

7. Eat the Food - We skimmed 6 quarts of goats milk on Sunday before our bike ride, so I'm excited to have plenty of milk to drink this week (I can't drink it whole except in my's an issue I have). I also finished another jar of apple butter this morning, so I'm looking forward to opening a new one from the pantry! Oh, I got a cool book from some friends of ours about cooking within season from local foods, so I'm hoping to set aside time to make a recipe or two from that this week.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

RIP Little Maple

Sweet little Maple last winter - We are going to miss this girl.

We had our first real farm casualty today. I was in the kitchen cleaning up a little before heading out to work on the yard while Rick was letting the chickens out. We free-range them in the fenced in goat area to keep them safe from the neighbor's dogs. Instead of letting the goats out while we heard the chickens in, Rick takes each one out of the coop and gently tosses them over the fence. He tossed Maple over, and then went to pull out another bird. By the time he was back with another one, Maple was lying on her side and kind of flopping around. Her eyes were open, but something was clearly not right. By the time Rick had run around the fence to the gate and into the pen to check on her, she was dead.

He brought her to the back porch where we basically said our good byes. I then burried her in the yard in an area that she liked to hang out in. We have no idea what happened to her. She was always the smallest bird (by a lot), so we think she may have had something defective about her. None of the other birds are showing any signs of any malady. Of course, neither did Maple until the last minute of her life. :-(

Maple was the one girl who had a really distinctive personality. She was actually pretty smart (for a chicken). She was friendly, adventurous, and always curious. She was a consistent layer, and she layed the cutest little green eggs. Her yolks were always the darkest (probably because she was always the first chicken to get the worms!). When she was a chick, she was tiny. When we sold three birds (one of each type), we picked out the smallest ones to go except for Maple. Even as a chick, she was friendly, so I wanted to keep her even though she was small. Of all the chickens, we had the most affection for little Maple.

She will be missed.

Maple as a tiny little chick The 'easter egg' birds were easily the cutest chicks of the bunch!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

10-mile meal to become a 100-foot meal

Blackberry topped goat's milk yogurt

For the past couple of days, I've been having a breakfast that is currently about a 10-mile meal. I'm having home-made yogurt made with our raw goat's milk (and then strained to make it a little thicker), topped with blackberries that we picked last summer and froze, and then drizzled with honey that comes from a farm up the road in the next town. I bought the honey because it was 'local' but I didn't know how local it actually was until we passed the farm when out biking a couple of weekends ago. I figure that if we drove directly there, it would be about 10 miles from us. This meal is not only a wonderfully filling and refreshing breakfast, but it brings back sunny memories from last summer. And if I have this same breakfast next spring - I'll be using our own honey and will be calling it a 100 foot meal!

This past weekend, we did a bunch of planting. I put in seeds for some more kohlrabi (the previous seeds were pretty churned up by baby goat I doubt they'll sprout if they are even still in the same location!), some different lettuces, turnips, beets, parsnips and carrots. Because carrot seeds are so small, it's hard to not just dump them in the soil and then keep them thinned. But I suck at thinning because I just hate to terminate the life of those little potential pieces of food! I got this idea from a forum I belong to for planting carrot seeds. They were using newspaper, but since I didn't have any readily available, I used TP. I gently spread out the carrot seeds on a dry strip of TP. Then I folded it over the seeds into thirds and lightly misted it with water. Then I layed them on a piece of tinfoil to carry them out to the garden. It worked really well! Now lets see how well they sprout. :-)

Carrot seeds in TP strips prior to planting in the ground.

We stopped by ACE to use up the last of a gift card we had to buy another rain barrel. While we were there, I decided to see if they had canning jars yet. They didn't, but they were so helpful in letting me order some that I decided it was time to start stocking up again. I selected 3 wide mouth pint cases and 5 wide mouth quart cases for now. We'll need more later on, but I can wait for local sales for futher purchases. ACE called me two days later to say that my jars were in, so we picked them up last night. I always feel better with more jars available to me. I'll feel even better once these are full of home grown produce and safely tucked away in the pantry!

The canning jar 'tower' awaiting a trip to the basement.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Independence Days Update #2

1. Plant something - We had to replant a few things that our goats took out, but in addition to that I started seeds for summer stuff like okra, melons, sunflowers and also for some fall items like winter squash (pumpkins, acorn squash, blue Hubbard, etc). I also direct sowed kohlrabi, spinach and lettuce and I transplanted some other lettuces and some Brussels sprouts. We also received our sweet potato starts and our sunchokes via mail - those will be planted a little later.

2. Harvest something – does cutting some lilacs to make our house smell WONDERFUL count?

3. Preserve something – I don't think I did any preservation at all this week. That's not good. Next week, we are making cheese - so that will count towards preserving some of our milk, right?

4. Reduce waste – I know this is silly, and I should have done it sooner, but I started washing for reuse all of our veggie bags this week. We are good about using cloth for the main bags, but for some reason, if I needed a plastic veggie bag, I used one. I try to avoid using any bag, if I can, but when you are buying a bunch of green beans, they need to go into something! This week, I decided it was high time I started reusing those bags for more than just picking up dead mice that the cat leaves for us. I washed and dried some and immediately put them into our cloth grocery bags for the next trip.

5. Preparation and Storage - We ordered and received a hand pump for our cistern well. If all else fails, we will be able to hand pump water and then purify it in our Berkley filter. I am also going to sign up for Sharon's Food Storage class if she's still got space available.

6. Build Community Food Systems - Our goats got out last week. My H was out of town and I was at work and luckily, our neighbor's dog alerted them to the fact that there was something odd going on. They put the goats back in their paddock before they could totally destroy our garden. I'm not sure if this counts as building community or not, but we did promise to share with them some of the veggies they saved! I also shipped two jars of blackberry jam from last year to my mom. One for her and my dad and one for her to give to another friend of hers. It's not local, but it is building community!

7. Eat the Food - We are working towards using up what is in our pantry before we start filling it again. I used up the last of last years tomatoes (frozen) in the chili I made over the weekend. We are still enjoying canned pears, apple butter and miscellaneous other goodies from our pantry on a weekly basis. This morning, I had a 100-foot meal (almost). I had freshly made goat's milk yogurt with frozen blackberries (from last summer) and drizzled with honey. The honey is local but store bought for next year, it'll be our own!