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!

He’s gone and joined the Army, the 1864 Army that is…

One gloomy day in July, my 9-year-old son joined the 1864 Army.  It took all of 90 seconds and the chance to hold a civil war era rifle and he was gone.

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I know that he is only 9 and that it is not real by any stretch of the imagination, but to him (and to my heart) it was pretty real.  I felt a real excitement for him and a serious sad ping in my heart all at the same time.   Silly huh?

What ever will I do in 9 short years when he is off to conquer the world?!?  Although in his 9-year-old mind…he will be living with us forever.  I think it’s ok if I hold onto that particular thought just a little while longer. ❤

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What a beautiful day and a great experience.

I love homeschooling these little people!  The wonderful experiences that we share, the memories that we make. Not only do they learn, but we do 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?

How 25 fuzzy butts turned into 35…

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Just a few short weeks ago, we got our 25 new chickies in the mail….well it was supposed to be 25, but 27 fuzzy butts showed up. 🙂  Yay for extras!

Man, did we have issues getting chicks this year.  First off, we’ve never ordered this early.  We started looking in February, after the Valentines day massacre (that’s what we’re calling it anyway) when we went to close the girls up for the night and found one of them pecked to death. 😦  So sad, we had no idea what happened at first.  We thought something had gotten into the coop, but there is just no way for that to happen so we deduced that it must have been one of the other hens that did it.  That and she had blood all over her beak…that was the obvious clue. 😉

So we decided that rather than chance another going rogue, we made an appointment to send them away to freezer camp.  That left us chicken less…for the first time in 5 years!!  It was odd not tending to them daily.  Then the littles arrived and I was back on chicken mamma duty.  I figured that we’d get them free ranging by 8 weeks or so, but I neglected to do the math.  You see, the chickens as yummy, friendly and egg filled as they are here for tick control.  They love to eat ticks!  That is the whole reason that we have them.  I am deathly afraid of ticks.  They are creepy and carry disease.  YUCK!  We don’t want to use chemicals on the lawn so that the kids don’t get Lyme disease, only to end up poisoning them, that seems like a bad plan.  So enter the chickens.  Although they free range year round, I like to get them out as soon as the snow starts receding so they can get a jump on the bugs.  But, as I said earlier…my calendar and my math skills did not sync up this year so we had not birds to eat the bugs early on.

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About 3 weeks old

Anywho…Our first day outside this year and I see a tick crawling on the tiny blonde hairs leading to my baby’s angelic face.  Cue the freak out!!  AGGHHHHH!!!!

There is no way that I could wait the 4 weeks until the little ones could get out to eat the bugs so the search was on.  Within 2 days we had found 8 organic laying hens and within a week they were re-homed to our little farm and eating all of the bugs that their little hearts desired, as well as tearing up my flower beds.  A small price to pay for peace of mind.

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The “older”gals

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Meeting each other for the first time.

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First day in the sun!

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Escape artists…they popped right through the fence!

I love these birds.  They are funny little creatures to watch and interact with and just having them roaming around feels like home.

So…Welcome all 35 fuzzy gals!  We’re glad to have you!

Master Tonic..it’s for all that ails you!

I have a confession to make….I HATE being sick.  I am sure that no one likes being sick, but I HATE it.  I am a giant baby when I am sick and I tend to panic, which makes things worse, way worse.

I will do ANYTHING to avoid being sick which is nearly impossible when you have little petri dishes walking around touching everything and then touching their faces, eyes, mouths, each others faces, my face.   I’ve even turned my head a time or two only to have a tiny hand shoved in my mouth, because suddenly a 4 year olds hand is an ice cream cone that “Mom  just has to try!”.   Ahhh…boundaries.

Anywho, I found this recipe last year for this super tonic hailed “Master Tonic” because I was looking for natural ways to keep us all from getting sick.  We take our vitamins, drink our elderberry syrup, I made stock often, we were eating organic, but we were still getting sick.  I happened across this article  from Heal Thyself and we’ve been making it ever since.  You have to think ahead enough to make it for when you need it as it takes a couple of weeks to steep.  We take it at the hint of a throat tickle or if anyone else is sick, we double, triple up.  It is a little hard to take at first and it may run right through you, but it gets easier every time and actually I enjoy the taste now, well most of the time anyway. 😉

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Master Tonic!

1 part fresh chopped organic garlic cloves
1 part fresh chopped organic white onions
1 part fresh grated organic ginger root
1 part fresh grated organic horseradish root
1 part fresh chopped organic Cayenne peppers, jalapeño, Serrano, Habanero, African bird peppers….any combination of the hottest peppers available

**Please use fresh and please use organic ingredients

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There are many versions from rough chopping to putting everything in the food processor.

Wash all ingredients. Chop and fill a glass jar  (or 2 or 3)  3/4 of the way full with the ingredients.  Fill the remainder of the way with Organic apple cider vinegar.   We use Bragg’s, but any OCV with the mother will do fine.

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Cover and shake.  Move all of that vinegar around to fill air bubbles.  Top off the jar with more vinegar.  Seal and wait.

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You should shake it when you walk by, but at least once a day.

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You can put herbs in it as well.  I’ve been cooking with turmeric lately, so I may just throw some in there.  Fresh thyme would be good as the essential oils in thyme are packed with anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-rheumatic, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties.

It is recommended that you make it with the new moon and strain it on the full moon (about 14 days).  While I try to follow this, I don’t always. Sometimes you just need it quicker. 😉

On the 14th day ( or round about there) strain your tonic into glass jars and keep in a dark place.  I keep one on the counter in a darker jar and the rest go in the cupboard.  The last batch (the 2 large jars) yielded about 4-5 pint-sized jars of the tonic.  Some folks save the strained out parts for soups and stocks.  I think I might do that the next time too!

Be wary of smelling it when making it…it WILL clear your sinuses.

The very first time I tried it, it was a strange feeling, I took a swig and felt it go straight down into my tummy warming along the way.  An odd feeling to say the least, but it works!  Knock on wood, everyone around me has fallen to  some sort of cold/flu already multiple times this year.  I am still standing. 😉  Sometime I get a very miniscule versions of what others have, but so far, never a full blown cold/flu.

There you go…Master tonic!  Make, drink, stay healthy!

~~~~~

Want to know more??

Here is a  little bit more information on why this all works…something to read while you wait 2 weeks for your tonic. 😉

Horseradish Root: From the same family as the mustard and cabbage family and has anti scorbutic and expectorant properties. The root reportedly cures tonsillitis and is a natural treatment for rheumatic and respiratory disorders. The root is also laden with a potent amount of vitamin C and B complex, minerals, potassium, calcium and iron as well as enzymes. It is a natural antibiotic which can kill bacteria in the throat that cause bronchitis. Horseradish heats up the body and has a cardiotonic effect (strengthens the heart). The glucosinolates found in horseradish are thought to increase resistance in humans to cancer. These glucosinolate compounds are only found in plants which are in the mustard family such as horseradish, mustard, broccoli and cauliflower. They have powerful anti-oxidant properties. It is interesting to note that a study in 2005 showed that glucosinolates increase the liver’s ability to detoxify and eliminate carcinogens. Horseradish contains an enzyme that aids in the breakdown of the glucosinolates which makes it easier for the human body to benefit from its therapeutic properties.

Ginger root: The ginger root is actually an underground stem. It may have blood thinning properties and cholesterol lowering properties. Compounds found in ginger known as gingerols have analgesic, sedative, anti-pyretic (lowers fever) and anti-bacterial properties. They also have anti-fungal properties that supposedly are effective against even athlete’s foot. Ginger contains protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, choline, folic acid, inositol, manganese, pantothenic acid, silicon and a small amount of vitamin B3. Ginger has good properties for menstruation problems, and many say that it is good for settling and upset stomach.

Garlic: Garlic contains antiseptic properties and it helps to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, is an appetite stimulant and is good for the hair! Garlic is known to be anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic as well as a blood purifier. There are recipes for treating tuberculosis, whooping cough, rheumatism, ringworm, pneumonia, wounds and ulcers, parasites, asthma, high blood pressure, digestive problems and acne. A cut garlic clove rolled on pimples several times a day will make the blemish disappear without a scar. Rubbing garlic over ringworm will burn out the infection. The skin falls off leaving healed skin behind. When cooking with garlic, by chopping or crushing the garlic clove and letting it rest for a few minutes before adding it to the dish you are cooking gives the anti-cancer properties a chance to form so that they are transmitted into the food even after it is cooked.

Onions: Onions contain phytochemicals called flavanoids. One flavanoid called quercitin may inhibit tumor growth and keep colon cancer at bay. A newly discovered compound in onions may actually inhibit bone loss in menopausal women. Onions contain vitamin C and chromium, B6, biotin, folic acid, vitamin B1 and K, and healthy sulfur compounds as well as enzymes. They also have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-histaminic properties and are a source of fiber.

Peppers: Red peppers contain lycopene which protects against cancer and heart disease. Peppers contain large amounts of phytochemicals that have antioxidant capabilities such as chlorogenic acid, zeaxanthin and coumeric acid. Hot peppers also stimulate blood flow in the body, but cayenne pepper is also good for helping to stop bleeding. I have applied some to a cut finger before, and it helped stop the blood flow.

Raw apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples in a wooden barrel. It contains calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, malic acid, acetic acid, pectin, potassium. Pectin is good for the colon, regulates blood pressure and also removes bad cholesterol. Malic acid is good for fighting infections, as it is anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.

Information above from Fair Hill Farms.  Thank you!!

I am a mom and Chef by training…not a medical professional.  Everything posted on this blog has been used by myself and my family and is for informational purposes only.  That being said…I do hope you try it and let me know how it works for you!

A litte bit of Mexico…

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Perhaps the hubs was longing for our honeymoon to Mexico…Perhaps he looked around and saw nothing in the house to eat??

Anyway…

When the man is home on a weekend that we aren’t running around…then he is cooking Which is fine by me!!.   Enter the homemade corn tortillas.

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As I finished my own work, he was busy mixing and resting dough.  He had his Sous Chefs by his side and together they were rolling while the littlest Sous was pressing.  My little guy was so incredibly proud of himself that he showed me each and every tortilla before they were cooked.  Which left me getting very little work done, but hey…them be some yummy tortillas made by a super kid!  I am very lucky. 🙂

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While Mj pressed, Mark cooked.

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This went on for a good while until we had a giant stack of warm, salty, corny (he, he) tortillas.

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We ended up with tostada like yumminess topped with grass-fed beef, our own canned beans, organic corn, organic salsa and the BEST sour cream out there…Wallaby!

 Seriously, this stuff is almost drinkable!

Anywho…Here is the link to the recipe that was used.  We were able to find organic masa harina too!  NO GMO corn here…ever! 😉

Give it a try…It is super fun for the kids too!

This Week…

This Week….

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~We are: learning about George Washington

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~We are: Drinking lots of coffee due to mid-night continuous wake-ups

~We are: Catching up on lots of work

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~We are: Falling way behind on laundry

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~We are: Wishing for spring but watching the snow fall

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~We are: Remembering where we were last year with piggie plans

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~We are: Planning for  this years piggies!!

~We are: Wanting a nap, very badly

~We are: Feeling pretty dingy for slipping on the ice while always preaching of “paying attention”

~We are: Wishing that the cleaning fairy would come over and do her magic

~We are: Thankful for the craziness of life and young, relentless spirit of these little ones

 

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit…..

Beans!  Beans! Beans!

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From blazing saddles to kids songs, if you are a man or under the age of 14, beans usually bring one thing to mind..

The Fluffies!

That is what we call a gaseous emission around here, well mostly.  My son is 6 so anything related to the bum is hilarious AND the talk of it is never-ending. 😉

Now, if you are an old mom like myself, you think of the nutrition a value of  beans.  Cooked, dry beans are low in fat, high in fiber and packed with protein. Dry beans provide a rich source of vitamins and minerals as well as plant phytochemicals.

So, take that Fluffies!

The other good thing is that my kids love them and I love serving the babes beans, that is until all of the BPA in metal can linings appeared.  When I found out about BPA, I went out and bought a ton of dried beans knowing that I could get around it all this way.  Except that you need to soak dried beans overnight if you want to eat them without breaking your teeth and who has time for that!?!  I am usually the one pulling frozen beef out of the freezer 30 minutes before dinner.  Organized for meal times, I am not!

So, since I am still afraid of the pressure canner that we bought and I had a closet full of dried beans and a husband that is willing to try anything, we set off to can some beans.

I had read how to do it and even asked a very helpful Facebook friend but was still leery about how they would turn out.  There were opinions about soaking first, not soaking, partial soaking, blah, blah, blah.  We were feeling lazy and impatient so we just put the dried beans in the jars.

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We canned black, kidney and garbanzo beans

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Black bean were treated to Mexican inspired spices, Kidney beans were left plain for soups and garbanzo got an assortment of herbs.

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We topped some with stock and some with water.  Some with herbs and some with spices.  Capped them all and into the pressure cooker they went.  After about 1 hour, we began to smell the spices and I was convinced that one had busted inside that was going to set off a chain reaction of events that would send the pressure canner careening into the air taking off like an inflated balloon that you’ve mistakenly let go of while blowing it up, zipping around the ceiling until it crash landed in the middle of the kitchen.

 Well, thankfully that did not happen. 🙂 Phew!

All of the jars were sealed, none broken and we had lots of fast and convenient organic beans to grab for any meal.  The best part, they are less than half the price of the already canned beans at the store and it took us less than 15 minutes to prep and a little over an hour to process, set it and forget it style (unless you are like me, cowering in a corner waiting for the explosion).

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 Pardon the goo on the jars, they were the bottom row in the water…

Now we have a closet full of beans, ready to eat!  I feel like I go to them more as an option for dinners because they are ready to go, easy and done.  I’ve even popped open a jar of chick peas to munch on… They are soooo good!

This is how we did it.

In each of the 12 oz jars we put 1/2 cup of beans, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and whatever herbs or spices that you want in them and filled the rest of the way (leaving 1 inch at the top for expansion) and give a quick stir. Cap those babies and set them in the pressure canner.  Follow the directions on the canner for water levels.  Start ‘er up and let ‘er rip for about 70 minutes. Then let your canner de-pressurize naturally.

Pull those bad boys out (with canning tongs of course) set them on a clean dry towel to rest over night.  In the morning put them away.  Simple as that!

We’ve flown right through the jars that we made, so it’s time to do it again!

** I found that in the 12 oz jars, I would put a little less beans, the really sucked up the liquid.  I might also try a really quick par boil before too…I bet that would help in pre-sucking up the liquid. 😉

I’ll keep ya posted…

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Wheat pizza with salsa, cheese and a can of our beans with frozen corn added to it.

Quick and yummy Mexican pizza!!

Mud, Mud……

I wish I could sing that song “mud, mud, I like mud….I’m absolutely, positively wild about mud”…but alas, I cannot.  😦

It is not in my DNA to like mud or even messes, which is a really funny thing considering our little farm here!

Maybe it’s my subconscious telling me that it’s time to change my dirt free ways, maybe, just maybe. Although I am learning to be ok with messes and muck, I don’t think I’ll ever like it.  This past week my muck-less ways were really tested as it rained and rained and rained followed by 2 days of REALLY heavy rain.  All was fine and dandy until Sunday when the hubs went to feed the piggies and they were all but floating in their pen.  Their house and bedding were under water and their entire pen had about 4 inches in most places with deeper spots all over (those of which I found myself, lucky me!).

Out we went to move the pig house, once we did that we just watched the water flow right under the gate of the pen and just pooled wherever it wanted to.  Thankfully we had an extra set of hands!  My Hubs brother-in-law was here and he had the brain power to just watch the water and let it-lead us on the route out of the pen…so trench one was built and ran directly through the pen to empty it.  Then the real work began, the boys dug a huge trench to move the water away from and around the pen.  Thank goodness for quick thinking!

Everything is wet, but drying, thankfully.  As for the chickens,  this batch is not afraid of the rain and was fully embracing it for its worm producing qualities, taking a break on the porch every once in a while.

Getting out of the rain….

Our standard footwear these days…

What’s left of  the mud bath at the Piggie Pen spa….

They didn’t mind half as much as we did!

Oh…the treasures they are finding in the mud!

Trench one finally dried…

Trench 2 still running with rain water…

More water!

And there you have it…mud, mud and more mud.

 Not a dream situation at all, but hey…it’s all part of living on our little farm.

Life is getting back to normal as the sun decides to share itself with us, things dry and we are all still a bit soggy, but a bit wiser for it. 🙂