The Gardens end…

Well, she’s just about gone.  The glorious garden that has given us so much this year is gone.   The only thing left are celery leaves, no actual celery (I have no idea why), just leaves which I’ll harvest and freeze for stocks…works the same, 🙂

The glorious garden that gave us fresh veggies all summer, all that we could eat, is no more.  At one point this summer, I couldn’t eat another cucumber… now, my onion dip is lonely and I’d love a garden cuke, but alas winter is near.

For our first large garden, she was very, very good to us…

Lettuces were eaten fresh and shared with others all summer

Tomatoes were plentiful and made into salsas, pizza sauces, marinara, soups, sauces

Cucumbers gave us canned and refigerator pickles and relish

Radishes were pickled and already eaten 😉

Squash is cured and waiting the the basement for a cold winter dinner

Corn is frozen and canned in soups

Green beans are canned in soups and frozen too

Snap peas, frozen awaiting stir frys

Zucchini, ever so abundant is canned into salsas and frozen for soups

Carrots are frozen for soups and stocks

And hot peppers are fermenting for our first try at hot sauce.

And finally chicken bones from processing this week are bubbling away as stock to be canned for the cold months.

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I cannot complain at all.  The work that we did this spring and summer has more than paid off and has given us a renewed sense of pride in growing food for our family and an excitement for next year.  It was a trial year for us and we have some kinks to work out but we are happy and grateful to say the least.

We have a few things left to do to get ready for winter.  Garlic goes in the ground this weekend, cleaning out the gardens, pig processing in a few weeks and closing up the bees are the major things left to get done before it gets colder.

Then we can start seed and chick researching for next year…maybe finally some fruit trees too!

No more CSA…

For the past 3 or so years, we joined a local, organic CSA from their start up. While we loved it at first, we found through the years that we weren’t able to really save anything for the winter and although we are culinarily adventurous, we had produce in the CSA that we never used. 😦  So we were looking for a better way for us to have enough for the summer AND have plenty to can without having to pay farmers market prices for extras.

We were bouncing around the idea of a greenhouse, which is a big expense and not at all pretty to look at on our small property.  I did not want to commit to an expense like that as I was not really comfortable in my black thumb gardening of the past so I suggested that we do a trial garden instead, to see if I could indeed grow things on a larger scale.  You see, I’ve had gardens in the past, from purchased seedlings, that I’ve basically given up on mid season, every single year.  Things get busy, weeds grow tall, I HATE hornworms and bugs…those types of things, so I was not convinced that I could do this, at all.

We had saved some seeds from the produce that we got at the farmers market to can last fall.  Unfortunately, the kids mixed all of the tomato seeds, so it was sort of a crap shoot what we would have for tomatoes.  What we also didn’t know is that your open pollinated squash second generation saved seeds can produce hybrid mutts of the squash world, which we have quite a few of. They’ll be interesting for sure when we crack them open.  Lessons learned. 😉

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Since putting in the 1 acre pig fencing last year, it left us with the old pig area which was super compacted and really rocky.  We decided to find some way to try and amend the soil while adding more growing medium to the whole area.  We found an organic dairy just up the road who was selling their composted cow manure.  Score!  The pigs had really made the already unworkable land, really unworkable so it was our only real option.  They delivered 2 dump trucks full and we got to spreading.  The kids were right there with us, knee deep in cow poo!  Man, I love those kids!

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Once we got it piled into mounds, we planted what little seedlings survived (which was not a lot despite my loving hands and pro grow lights)…which left me feeling a little defeated.  My first foray into starting seedlings indoors left me with stalled growth at best and nothing growing at worst.  Any who..the little ones went into the ground and I replanted the failed ones from seed.

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After weeks of weeding and watering we began to see life!  That was the most exciting part!  I put these seeds into the ground, watered them and they GREW!  Crazy huh?!?  I knew how it all worked and had planted many times, but this year, something clicked.  It was as if someone had set off a button in my head that allowed me to really appreciate what was happening.  I spent lots of time in the garden, weeding, picking bugs off the plants (grow your own damn plants bugs!) and watering.  I talked to the plants, I actually thanked them all daily for the bounty that they provided us to sustain us now and through the winter.  It worked!

To date, we’ve canned over 200 jars of different sauces, relishes, ketchup, pickles and salsas.  I’ve frozen quarts and quarts of green beans, zucchini, carrots, corn and pea pods.  And stored away in the cellar are 50+ squash, yes even the hybrid mutts.

Moral of the story, the experimental season in the garden has been a success and I don’t think we’ll be needing a greenhouse after all.  We have a way to go and are constantly learning, there will be some tweaking for sure but I believe that the words for this season are grateful and thankful. ❤

There really is something so rewarding about growing your own food once you see it as a privilege and not a chore. ❤

Seriously, if I can do it….anyone can!

How was your gardening season?

Balance…

Balance… The dictionary defines it as “a state of equilibrium”

As one can plainly see, I have not quite struck the nail on the head with this balance thing for the past few months.  This blog is very important to me as it is a written history of our journey, a journey that we begun just about the time that I started this blog.  This blog is for me, it is for my family, it is our past, present and future.  It’s purpose is to be our story.  If along the way we help others along their journey with a quick tip, recipe or nudge to do something that they thought was impossible, or even a laugh…that’s great! Yay!

So…Back here I am.  I seldom get quiet time with all of the happenings around here, but when I am blogging, people seem to leave me alone.

I’ll take it! 🙂

My friends…this has been our busiest season yet for our businesses and being so, I got pulled away from much that I do.  There was less time for homemade items and new recipes.  Our Christmas was a little lighter on the homemade gifts this year, but fun none the less.  My dreams of sitting near the fire reading (with all of the down time that winter should bring) hasn’t happened yet….but it is good to have a busy business!  With the business, balance is harder to come by though…balance with the kids homeschooling, balance with our farm (thankfully only 15 chickens are hanging out with us this winter), balance in our family life and marriage, balance with the household, balance in general.  I am beginning to find balance again…through routine and schedules.  I am NOT a routine person…let me say that again.  I am NOT a routine person.  I much prefer to just do what comes, however with all that is coming at me lately, I’ve decided to try the routine route and see what come of it.  Sticking to it will be the hard part…but I believe that it will make my life easier…at least I hope it will.

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All said and done…we had a wonderful Holiday albeit busy.   Hope yours was wonderful too<3

Fighting, fences and depression…..

Sibling rivalry is alive and well in the farm-yard!

After a little routine (well less than routine this year) lawn mowing, we heard a terrible squealing coming from the pig pen, not an oops I touched the electric fence squealing, but something quite different.

Three of the pigs had the 4th cornered and were biting his tail and hid quarters. 😦  The gentlest of the bunch was under attack.

We hopped in and separated them but once they see the red color of blood…it’s game on!  So after they went at him again, we decided that we had to separate them and the only way to do that was but splitting the area with the electric fence, him in one side and them on the other.

Yay!  It worked!  We tended to the wounds and he healed within a few days

New problem..pig depression.  Now, I am no pig psychologist, but we had one depressed piggie on our hands…it was pretty easy to tell.  Pigs eat.  They eat ALL of the time, they eat almost anything.  It’s amazing what will go through a pigs digestive tract only to show up on the other side.  Stories for another day though.   I knew he was depressed, because he would just push his food around and take a few bites (not to mention the escape to the side with his pals that ended up with more wounds).  He would sleep beside the fence, just inches from his pals.  It was truly sad and very heartbreaking.  When I went  to scoop the poop, as I lovingly refer to my chores as, he wanted to play with me.  He was lonely, so we bonded.. full well keeping in mind that this animal could eat me or crush me against the fencing. He missed his buddies and I was no substitution. 😦

We decided that they needed more space, so we ordered some electric netting and decided to sacrifice what was left of the garden so they would have a little yummy distraction when we put them all back together.  It was really cute, they sniffed each other and went on their merry way to till our garden.  They made quick work of it and have been pig happy ever since.  Every once in a while, Red will sneak up to one of his buddies and give a little snout rub as if to say “I missed you”.

I believe that this is the picture that got me shocked to the bone…um, yeah…the new fence works. 😉

They are hovering around 200 lbs each and are just a joy to watch.  I learn so much by watching them…they are such smart creatures.  The most peaceful part of my day is doing my chores, feeding them and watching them.  I really think we are ready to make the jump into farming a bigger property….I feel it in my bones. 🙂

Now…if only my bones would find that perfect piece of property!! 😉

Stay tuned!

Around the Farm…

I’m not exactly sure what qualifies one as a farm, but to me, it is a big white house and an even bigger red barn. But seeing as we aren’t quite there yet…I suppose 15 chickens and 4 pigs puts us in that category even without the barn. 🙂

Well..It’s been a while since my last update and since late April through May for us has 7 close family birthdays, a special memorial weekend for my Dad a wedding and much, much more…I’m trying to squish everything into a few posts.

So…here goes…

Just one of the spring tulips…

~Two of the ladies doing what they do…

~Feisty the pig…

~More of natures beauty…

~Red checking out the camera…

~Blue digging up the dirt…

~One of the tulips that made it past the chickens…

~Pinky taking a break…

~Wanting to eat the camera…

~Typical shoe wear ’round these parts…

~Getting a little drink…

The piggies are growing faster than I could have imagined and love to eat everything from twigs and bugs to scrambled eggs!  They love to scamper around and frolic when sprayed with cool water on a hot day.  We gave them some beach balls to play with and they love them!   They are tilling the soil for us faster than we could have imagined as well and we are discovering just how rocky that area is.  Looks like there is some major compost and soil that’s going to be needed to make that area into our giant garden for next year as we had planned.

Our chickens are happy and eating all of the bugs in the yard and the occasional flower or two.  I now know why farms don’t have typically have manicured flower beds.  Fresh mulch makes for great dust baths and they seem to enjoy themselves so much.

Oh well. 🙂

We are moving right along into spring and I am feeling a bit behind as we should have started our seedlings long ago. 😦  Perhaps it will just be easier to buy the seedlings this year and direct sow the rest.  *sigh*  Maybe next year.  This year is flying by so quickly.

Off to feed the piggies again….

They’re here!!!

We have planned, read, built and waited, and now they are here!

Our little piggies!!

We started with  a plan of one, but who wants a lonely depressed pig, so we opted for 2.  Well if we’re going to have 2, why not 3?  What’s one more mouth??  So 3 it was.  We ordered them in the fall from a local farmer.  As we got closer we wanted one more, why not?

 So phone call after phone call, we finally found another little to join our brood only a short hour and a half away.

There was a little squealing from the new boarders at the pig farmers and the kids found some new friends who homeschool too!

All in all a great day!  Everyone is getting along well.  The pigs could care less about the chickens and the chickens are like  bunch of old gossipy ladies, squawking around trying to figure these new things out.  They do like new pig food though. Bonus!

So, without further ado….

Checking out the new digs!

Rooting around already.

The ladies checking out their newest farm mates.

Making a place to nap.

Fresh fruit and vegetable scraps.

Rooting in the dirt AND eating…pig heaven!

Tired from all the activity.

Checking out the camera.

The happy 4!  Can you guess which one was the late addition?!?

So, there they are!  The newest additions to our growing family and we couldn’t be happier. 🙂

And now we wait…

We are ready for our newest additions!!  Next weekend we are picking up our piggies and we are so excited!!  We have planned and planned and built a great place for them to live and play and now we have to wait a whole week…I might just explode. 😉

In the beginning there were over 100 pallets…

And one handsome hubby…

And some good friends…

And some adorable kids…

And some grey, yucky looking pre-spring grass…

And a little extra bracing for some strong pigs….

And a little break for some in dirt playing….

And a ton of screws…

And a hill for extra grazing…

You can huff and puff, this house is going NOWHERE…..

Any pig would be glad to reside here in their 64×22 pen…

Less than $250 for pen and housing…reusing and reclaiming = Green living and happy pigs

And one approving hen awaiting her friends. ❤

There are nay sayers, those who think we are crazy for taking on this responsibility in addition everything else that we do in a day.  The difference is that we WANT to do this.  We want to have a little farm and learn how to grow our own food and sustain ourselves.  I love knowing where most of our food is coming from and that we know how to make and grow our own.  We are always learning and love that about this adventure.

Life is learning, I learned that from my Dad… ❤

Tap, Tap, Tapping….

Our inaugural tree tapping happened this long weekend!

The days have been warm and the nights cool, so hey…tapping is going on early this year. 🙂  Local sugar shacks are already making maple syrup, so why shouldn’t we??

We came across a killer clearance sale at Lowes last year on their maple tree tapping kits so we jumped on it and now we have 9 buckets going, each holding 3 gallons.  It takes 10 gallons of sap to make 1 quart of syrup.  Its more the process and the experience that we are in search of, full well knowing that we aren’t going to line the shelves with maple syrup for the entire year.  The kids were really excited to help, they were out there, freezing their little buns off, in the 20 MPH winds helping hang the buckets and braving the woods.  I have to admit that I am a bit of a bug freak, particularly ticks so we don’t necessarily go gallivanting through the woods.  Although, truth be told I really wish we could gallivanting…  I’m getting there, slowly. 😉

Drip…Drip…Dripping our way to Maple Ice Cream!

Bubba helping Dad…

Haven’t figured out why these buckets are bright blue?!

Big Ol’ Sugar Maple!

We have 2 gorgeous old rock walls that line one side of the property…I think it may have been a road at one time.  This is one of the main reasons that we bought the house…we just loved the history of the land. ❤

I try to imagine all of the different kids through the years that must have played on these rocks…

Ahhhh….I can’t imagine looking out and not seeing trees!  We’ve done our time in the city and wouldn’t trade the scenery we have now…it’s mother nature at her best!

We’ll see if our cup runneth over with sap.. 😉

Hurricane Entertainment…

So here we are in the middle of a hurricane and this is what we are doing…

Canning and making lasagna!  This is our first attempt at canning so we went a bit easier on ourselves.  We had planned on going all out and making sauce, but with the threat of the flickering lights and power going out we decided to go with crushed tomatoes with fresh basil to make it a bit easier and quicker.  I had pulled all of the red and almost red tomatoes out of the garden so hurricane Irene wouldn’t claim them so we had to do something with these beautiful, organic fruit.  I also didn’t want the to end up splattered all over the chicken coop. 😉
I’ll post as soon as we try them, although that might be a while as we vowed not to use them until the dead of the winter for the time and sheer sweat factor.  Man, the kitchen was hot between the lasagna and every burner on the stove going. Phew!  Sweating and not being able to open the windows are NOT a good combination.  Toss in the threat of not being able to shower due to power loss and you have one stinky kitchen…. ;-p  Pretty good for our first time.

Here we go…

Finally the first post and what a great time to post!  The sun is shining yet, it is cool and breezy.  The garden is giving it’s bounty daily including beautiful giant sunflowers, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and green beans.  Let the freezing begin!  We are not experienced gardeners by any stretch of the imagination, but we learn a bit more every year.  I am hopeful that as we learn, our garden will grow bigger.  Our chickies had a run in with a hungry something this year and we lost 6 in one day. 😦  Sad, very sad but the remaining 6 hens and 2 guineas are getting along and laying eggs for us, so I cannot complain.

The Little Lady

My Dude

Soon we start our homeschooling adventure…I am both excited and scared.  If I screw this up, I don’t have 30 something other teachers to blame, just myself.  No pressure there. :-/  We will take it day by day with a plan in mind, but not carved in stone.  My babies will lead their learning.  My goal for them, to love learning as much as I do.  My love of learning didn’t come from schooling, it came from my dad, who made everything an adventure and a learning experience.  A born teacher, everything was an opportunity to learn.  I did not however realize until much later, that I was learning and that made it fun.   This is what I want for my children, to love to learn, without the negative connotation of school and desk learning that so many kids have today.  Fun, learning and life experiences are what I want my kids to get out of their education….Here we go!