Our rain fall this year has been less than half of normal, but the lack of April showers did not hamper the blooming of May flowers. The farm is bursting with color and I will relish it for as long as it holds out.
Antique roses cover every arbor on the farm and the delicate fragrance that wafts through the night air is intoxicating.
Apple blooms are a promise of fall’s juicy crispness. Cider, tarts, pies and fresh eating are still months away, but nonetheless thought of.
The little peach tree is laden with small fruit. By July we’ll be eating them by the dozen. I can’t wait to make the first tartin of the season.
The deepest purple of this bearded iris makes it look almost black. Flowers like this are a reminder of wonderful friends. I got a few rhizomes from a fellow garden club member who loves to share. And, I will share too, I have no choice, everyone who sees it places an order for a bulb at dividing time. Fortunately for me that won’t be for another year or so.
I’m a big fan of using small bits of most anything to make hearty well balanced meals.—big fan. So much of what people leave behind in the fridge goes to waste when just a bit of creative energy can turn those bits into a wonderfully satisfying meal. Case in point — last night, when I was cleaning the kitchen I realized that my banana was getting too soft to eat. Usually I make banana bread out of the soft ones, but with my life as an empty nester a loaf of banana bread is too much for one person. My solution…turn that lone tropical fruit into a small batch of banana pancakes, with some help from a small amount of pecans I had in the freezer. Simple.
After mixing up a batch of pancake batter for one I mashed the banana, chopped a ¼ cup of pecans and threw it all into the bowl. Once that thick batter hit the hot griddle the kitchen smelled amazing; warm and inviting and comforting like an early fall morn. When my stack of pancakes came off the griddle I slathered them with butter and drizzled warm Vermont maple syrup over the top; added a few slices of crispy bacon and a sliced apple, and there it was—dinner. There’s nothing like the tantalizing smell of breakfast for dinner to turn your head away from the day and bring you solidly into the easy flow of a relaxing night. Perfect.
What little bits are looming in your fridge that can be made into a wonderful meal like a quiche, frittata, stew, soup or chopped to top a hearty salad? Be creative and eat well!
I saw this list of 101 homesteading skills and thought it would be fun to see how many of them I already knew how to do. After reading it over and checking them off I was surprised at how many I already use or knew how to do. It also gave me a good list of new skills to learn. Not all of them will pertain to a suburban homestead, but the list would be a good stating point for anyone trying to improve their knowledge of homesteading. And, I’m sure if we put our minds to it we could come up with 1001 things a homesteader should know.
Just for fun see how many you already know then make plans to learn a few new ones in 2013!
1. to use a chainsaw safely
√ to grow a vegetables & herbs
√ to sharpen an edged tool – knife, axe, hoe, chisel etc.
√ to use and store firearms safety
√ to tan rabbit skins
6. to read the weather
7. to spin wool, cotton or angora into thread or yarn using a spinning wheel or drop spindle
√ to use long handles tools without hurting your back
√ to light a fire indoors or outdoors
√ to buy at an auction without paying too much
√ to mend clothes
√ to butcher rabbits or chickens
√ to hang clothes on a clothesline
√ to operate & maintain a tiller
15. the unique traits of different trees & their types of wood
√ to cook from scratch
17. to pasteurize milk
√ to conserve & save water
√ to recognize healthy plants & animals versus unhealthy
√ basic sewing skills
√ to ear tag or tattoo an animal
√ to tell an animal’s age by its teeth
23. to replace a broken window
√ to drive a stick shift
25. Learn how to thaw out frozen pipes without busting them
√ to graft a fruit tree
27. to hand thresh & winnow wheat or oats & other small grains
28. to train a working cattle or sheep dog
29. to read the moon and stars
√ to make cheese
√ to live within your means
√ to catch, clean & fillet a fish
33. to use a wash tub, hand-wringer and washboard
√ to make soap or detergent
√ to build a bunk planter
√ to can canning & preserve food
√ to save seeds
√ to de-horn livestock
√ basic leather work or repair
√ to plan for the future – orchard, livestock program, or energy sources
√ to repair with duct tape, baling twine or whatever is on hand
√ to read an almanac
√ to put down an animal
√ to cook on an open fire
√ entertain yourself without electronic media
√ to shear a sheep, electric & hand
√ to maintain shears
√ to swap, barter and network with like-minded people
√ to make candles
50. to dig & use a shallow well
√ to refinish furniture
52. to drive a draft animal
√ to realistically deal with life, death and failure
√ to use & maintain an oil lamp
√ to treat livestock injuries
√ to restrain large livestock
√ to use a sewing machine
√ to give an IM or Sub-Q injection
√ to properly use hand tools
√ to recognize your own physical and mental limits
√ how and when to prune grapes and fruit trees
√ to hatch out eggs
63. to use a scythe
64. to skin a furred animal & stretch the skin
65. to tell the time of day by the sun
√ to milk a goat, sheep or cow
√ to stomach tube a newborn animal
√ to butcher large livestock
√ to use a wood stove & to bank a fire
√ to make butter
71. to knit or crochet
√ to make & use a hot bed or cold frame
√ to deliver a piglet, calf, lamb or goat
74. to know when winter is over
√ to plant a tree
√ to brood day-old chicks
77. to dye yarn or cloth from plants
√ to haggle like a horse trader
√ to bake bread from scratch
80. to use a pressure tank garden sprayer
√ to halter break a horse, cow, sheep or goat
√ to graft baby animals onto a foster-mother
83. to weave cloth
√ to grow kitchen herbs
√ to make sausage
√ to set and bait traps for unwanted vermin and predators
√ to grind wheat into flour
88. to make paper and ink
89. to learn when it is more economical to buy ready-made or make it yourself
√ to castrate large livestock
√ to choose a location for a vegetable garden or orchard
92. to weave a basket
93. to use electric netting or fencing
√ to make fire starters
95. to use a pressure cooker
96. to correctly attach 3 point hitch implements to a tractor
√ to trim hooves of goats or sheep
√ to sew a quilt
99. to make wine or beer
√ basic plumbing & electrical
√ to shoot a rifle & handgun
28 to go!
Not bad. Not bad at all!!
In my neck of the woods, February and March are prime garden readiness months. Fruit trees are pruned, berries are trimmed of dead canes and tied to trellises or fencing, raised beds are restocked with compost or built brand new. But, the most fun of this time of year is starting seeds. We mark the day on our calendars and when it arrives the task begins like the start of an Olympic race.
There’s truly nothing better than plunging your hands deep into freshly dug soil, warmed by the spring sun and planting homegrown seedlings started way back in winter, when spring was just a hope and a dream. And, the money you save over buying already started veggies and the vibrant taste of homegrown food ain’t bad either.
This is also the time when garden centers and hardware stores stock a plethora of seed starting paraphernalia: peat pots, soil pellets, plastic pots, covered mini-greenhouses, you name it, if it can start a seed, some store in your area will carry it.
But, do you really need all this fancy commercial stuff to start the seeds you want to plant in your garden. The answer is no! Seeds are not divas. They don’t require 5-star accommodations to germinate and thrive. What they do require is the right kind of starter/growing medium, the right amount of moisture, warm temperatures and room to produce a strong healthy root system. Read the rest of the story »
Today’s grocery store chickens are hybridized to be exactly the same as all the other grocery store chickens. They are bred to grow the same, finish out the same and be similar in weight. This fast-growing breed is called a Cornish Rock Cross. Typically, they range in age from 4-weeks, for a Cornish Game Hen, to 8 to 10 weeks for a full grown roaster. The chickens are the same; only their name has been changed, taking labels given to chickens from days gone by.
So, if you’re thinking that a Cornish Game hen is not a Cornish Game hen at all, but rather a baby Cornish Rock Cross, you’d be right. Cornish Game hens are not raised commercially any longer because they take too long to grow to a marketable weight.
Modern grocery store chickens also have white feathers and were developed in the 1980’s to gain weight fast on a limited amount of feed. It is true that some birds grow so fast that they sometimes have heart attacks or break down in their legs before ever reaching a butcherable weight. But, I think that is a factor in commercially raised birds more than homestead or small farm raised birds. Some growers even limit the feeding schedule to slow down the birds’ growth.
And, what about those white feathers? Well—the average consumer wants a pretty carcass to make a pretty roasted chicken to put on her family’s dinner table. Non-white feathered chickens can have black spots in the skin where the pin feathers broke off during plucking. This happens to white chickens too; only the consumer can’t see them because they are white. Read the rest of the story »
It’s shocking to think that 50 million people, many of them children, go hungry every day. It’s even more shocking when you learn that almost ¼ of food produced in America goes to waste.
From the Directors of FOOD, Inc., Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the food insecurity issue through the lens of three people who are struggling to feed their families—a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.
Woven together with the insights of experts, A Place at the Table will show how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and how it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides-as they have in the past-that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.
As farmers, gardeners, homesteaders and foodies of all kinds we know all too well how simple changes can improve a family’s food security and self-sufficiency.
I hope you will take time to watch this must see documentary…and then decide how you can be helpful in your community.
Our flock of chickens grew this week. Four new arrivals, 2 Welsummer and 2 Blue Wyandotte pullets were added to the coop. I hadn’t really planned on adding more hens this early, but when I realized some of my girls were getting on in years, slowing down their egg production, and my friend and chicken breeder Larry had 3-month old’s in the breeds I was thinking about, the plan sped up by a few months.
I’ve never really been interested in the plain production breeds like Leghorns, Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds. I want hens that are colorful, not only in their feathers, but also in their eggs. I already have Americana’s that lay blue-green eggs, and Black Cochin’s and New Hampshire’s that lay light brown eggs. The only thing missing was a breed that lays the dark chocolate brown eggs, like those Cadbury chocolates wrapped in shiny gold paper.
There are only two breeds that lay such dark brown eggs—Marans and Welsummer’s. Marans tend to be a little pricey for egg layers and relatively hard to come by, but Welsummer’s are more common. They are a Dutch breed…a combination of several breeds really. But, over time they have been refined and standardized by poultry breeders who took a fancy to them as soon as they were imported. Through selective breeding they have become a nice temperate addition to farm flocks, and the dark brown eggs they lay are an added bonus.
The Blue Wyandotte is a variety of the Wyandotte breed, meaning they are a “color” of the breed. Wyandotte’s come in a several different colors from golden and silver laced, to white, black and buff. There are even Columbian, partridge and silver penciled giving any poultry lover a wide range of colors and feather patterns to choose from.
Wyandotte’s are an American breed used for both egg production and meat. Although I like them for their solid medium brown eggs, I also think they are just what a chicken should be…plump, fluffy and fun to watch scratching in the garden.
(Blue Wyandotte Hen)
Right now they are housed in six foot long wire caged that was used when we raised meat rabbits. The cage will keep them safe at this young age, away from circling hawks and feral cats, and allow the other chickens to get use to new additions. Although I don’t think Sophia (our goose) is to keen on the idea of more chickens in the coop.
So…in a few months the flock will add a wonderful dark brown color to my daily collection of farm fresh eggs.
Breakfast can’t get any better than that!