Thursday, March 26, 2015

That's What Muck Boots'll Getcha

Spring is finally springing around here!  AND!  I'm able to post a picture finally!  Yesterday we had a fox visit and today we had 8 turkeys strolling through the yard leaving their bounty of fertilizer in their wake.  You can see, we actually have some grass showing on the windswept parts of the yard.  It was a long and very cold winter here and so much snow.  We ended up with over 7 feet of snowfall in the span of about 4 weeks and I for one am not sad to see it go.  Be gone, ye cold, white curse!

As I walked through my side entry way the other day, this is the site that greeted me.  I chuckled because wearing anything else in our yard right now is a fool's folly.  The mud is copious.  I have basically given up trying to get the boots to land in the boot trays and having the boys "be careful!" of my clean floors.  I don't mop my floors anyways, mostly because it's pretty impossible with the finish mostly removed from them, so I scrub a bit and vacuum them when the need arises.  It's a futile task this time of year, anyways. I'm considering myself mostly lucky if I can get them to take the boots off at the door rather then tracking through the house in them.  So, in a way, this unsightly pile of boots is a victory for me.  Everyone remembered to remove them, yay, Peacemom!

While I'm awaiting all the wonderful flowers that will be peeking through the snow soon, like the ones above and all the different types of daffodils we have here, I've been plucking away at the to do list.  For the past three months, I've not really felt like doing much, been in a serious winter funk.  Outside of keeping the house remotely clean, stocking the wood box, keeping the wood stove going all day, I've not accomplished all that much.  Well, I did make and can lots of bone broth, canned my first meat (pork and chicken) and canned lots of dry beans.  I use beans in a lot of things, I kind of sneak them into things like tacos, soups, and casseroles.  We've been on a meat reduction of sorts around here, and using beans stretches the meat factor a lot and provides us with healthy fiber and protein.  I try to can what I'm able to do in the off season, like beans and meat so that when the garden is overflowing I don't have to worry about the staples.  I've got what I need, already canned, and that's a relief. I've been enjoying canning the meat and beans and having them ready to serve.  If I have a night where I run out of time to do something, I can open up a can of black beans and pork and have tacos in minutes...or chili, or some of the soup I also canned.  It's like having my own fast food restaurant, only much, much better.
The list of "to do" right now is very long.  I spent a good portion of the day today pruning back a very large forsythia bush outside our screen porch.  It has been a good many years since it's seen some pruners, and it proved a formidable opponent.  It provides almost the only privacy from our neighbors house, so I don't want to over-trim it, but it's gotten so that it's spreading almost into the only flat spot for us to put a table outside, so it needed to be done.  Forsythia can get CRAZY if it's not kept in check.  I also need to get to all of the lilac bushes here, there are many, that have also not been maintained in many years.  I have decided to do all of these while the bugs are not out and there is still snow on the ground.  I can't get to the vegetable garden yet, which is currently under about 2 1/2 feet of snow still, so I'll occupy myself with the pruning duties.  The flower beds here are wonderful, but take a lot of maintenance in the spring and fall.  This is the first time we'll be here for both fall and spring and so I did what I could on the clean up for the fall, but didn't get to all of the beds, so will still need to do plenty of raking and such to get them looking good for the summer. 

In honor or spring, these young ladies have finally begun laying in earnest again.  We did have one or two that continued to lay over the winter, but now that the daylight is longer, they all are back on track.  I have been making quiches quite a bit because nothing uses up eggs like a quiche.  One spinach and cheese will use up 9 eggs at once, so that's always good.  Also another nice quick meal idea as well.  Takes time to bake it, but I can throw one together in about 10 minutes and in another 40 have a delicious hot meal on the table with little effort.  I have one white egg layer named Essex.  She was my free "mystery" bird from Murray McMurray last year, and we were finally able to deduce that she is a Golden Penciled Hamburg.  She is my only egg layer that lays white eggs. Our Egyptian Fayoumi used to lay white eggs, but she stopped laying after the illness that swept the coop a couple of years ago and she's now just our cranky old alarm clock.  She likes to roost in the rafters of the pen rather then joining the others in the coop at night.  And she's a very vocal greeting in the morning, sounding loudly something like ggrrrrrrrrraaaaacckkkkkk!!!!  We affectionately call her Grumpy Old Bitch even though her name is actually Wilma.  So, I have been saving the white eggs from Essex to color for Easter.  I've reserved enough for my friend Diane to color as well, since she kept me in eggs when hers continued to lay during the winter and mine didn't.  Her layers all lay brown eggs, so I thought she would enjoy getting a dozen little white ones.  Even though Essex is a panicked, slightly feral chicken, I'm glad she's in the mix so that we can have white eggs for the kids for Easter.  One more of those homestead joys...not having to go to the store for factory farmed white Easter eggs. 

I'll leave you with one last daffodil dream.  We'll be seeing them in the next month or so, I'm sure.  I have many things I'm still wanting to do this spring before gardening season sets in and I'm really busy producing our food.  I want to make fermented ginger ale using a ginger bug "mother".  Wanting to get more fermented stuff into my kids and they aren't crazy about my saurkraut, though I think its delicious!  Waiting on the cow at the farm where we get milk to calf so we can start getting the good stuff again, and then I will be adding yogurt back to the kids fermentation food list.  Lots of things to look forward to, in the meantime, wishing for you all spring dreams, scents, sun and your own happy "to do" list.

Daffodil smiles to you,


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Luke, Get the Tauntaun!

Hi Everyone!

Did you miss me?  I've been having technical difficulties with Blogger, and I may be moving this blog to another service because not being able to upload photos makes my blog, well, not my blog.  I find the photography at least as fun if not more so then the writing.  Right now, it just won't let me upload photos and I'm having not much luck figuring it out.  Grrrr....computers are your best friend or your worst enemy, honestly!

Winter has been very hard here at Grace Note.  We're ready to fetch the tauntauns!  If I could post the pictures for those of you not able to look out the window at the frozen world that is New England, you would see why.  The snow is now half way up the bottom floor windows, which is about 5 1/2 feet up.  Most of that fell in the span of 2 weeks and we've also been dipped into subzero weather for far too long.  It's becoming a problem with the morale around here.  I'm usually knee deep in gardening and chicken catalogs.  Not this year.  I can't even see the end of the snow tunnel here.  We wanted to wait to get the chickens until we'd be able to put them out in the outdoor pen after a few weeks in the house.  We could do that if the temps stay up high enough at night for us to have them outside.  Since the little chicks coop is currently full of over five feet of snow, and we're predicted 5-8" more inches tonight and another 12" possible on Wed...well, not feeling too optimistic about the chances of chicks arriving before June.  Planning this early for that is a bit tough since it's a bunch of time between now and then, a really, really long time.  And I would usually be putting some seeds in to have some seedlings ready to go when the ground warmed, but I'm looking at snow almost half way up the sliding glass door windows in our dining room.  We usually put the flats of seeds on the floor as it's the best sun.  Right now, the sun doesn't reach the floor because of the snow level.

Cabin fever has set in badly, feeling a bit hopeless, but that comes with the tough winter territory.  On the up side, we've been warmer this year with the new stove, that has been a blessing.  That along with the three cord of wood I got last summer, dry and wonderfully full of blessed BTU's.  Some days, I need a diversion to keep spirits up, not just for me but for the guys in the house as well.  Today's diversion included a yummy banana cake right from the Bob's Red Mill Baking Book.  Thought I'd share that with you in case you were needing a diversion of your own.

Banana Cake

makes1-8"x8" cake

1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c soy flour (I used all purpose since I have soy issues)
1/2 c ground flax seed meal
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c soy milk (I used almond milk, but any kind of milk will work)
1/3 c honey or maple syrup (or you could use cane sugar as well)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 med ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 c walnuts, chopped

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8"x8" baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, flax seed meal, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, honey, egg, vanilla and bananas.  Combine milk mixture with the flour mixture until combined.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Combine the topping ingredients and mix until crumbly, then sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Hope everyone out there is doing okay in this long and cold winter.  Our dog is the only one that seems to still be excited about new snowfall these days.  Keep on keepin' on! We'll get through it!

Enjoy a little comfort cake,


Monday, December 1, 2014

Cookies For Breakfast? Oh, Yes We Did!

Yesterday I spent some time recovering from the almost 4 days without power...laundry, shopping, and cooking.  I wanted to make something for the kids snack time at school, something healthy that they would enjoy eating.  Little Red is a bit of a picky eater.  He will pretty much consume any carb I put in front of him, but we have to negotiate for vegetables and any fruit that isn't apples, mangos or pear.  I was looking online for some inspiration for this recipe and went to the Food Network site to see what they might have that would be healthy.

Not to be disappointed, I found just what I was looking for on Ellie Krieger's recipes.  She had something called "Breakfast Cookies".  Well, now we're talking.  We've all got a sweet tooth here, and the kids aren't unfamiliar with the concept of cookies, but for breakfast?  I knew they would be on board, but I had to be sure that it would be remotely healthy, too.  Maestro helped me make them, and they came out soft and chewy and yummy.  The only problem with them was, I forgot to leave out the nuts so that the kids could bring them to school.  Their classrooms are nut-free, so anything sent for snacks (which they eat in the classroom) has to be nut free.  So, they became the cookies they actually ate before they left for school this morning.  No problem getting those down, no negotiations with Little Red, he even wanted milk to wash them down.  Kid also hates to drink anything, I have no idea why.

I did double the recipe so I could get a few days out of them.  Doubling it worked fine and I'm sure they would freeze fine as well.  Next time, I'll remember to leave out the nuts and will probably replace them with ground flax seeds or oat bran.  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Ellie Krieger's Breakfast Cookies

Makes 12 large cookies

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (didn't have any, used white whole wheat and it worked fine)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbls butter
1/2 c canola oil
1/4 c dark brown sugar (I used maple syrup, worked great and added a nice flavor)
3 Tbls granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 c strained carrot baby food (I used my applesauce that I canned this fall, didn't have baby food, also worked nicely)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c bran cereal flakes
1/3 c raisins (next time I'm going to try mixing dried cranberries and raisins for a change)
1/3 c walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted in a dry skillet for 2 minutes until fragrant, chopped


Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium size bowl.  Combine butter, oil and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, scraping down sides if necessary, until sugars have dissolved and mixture is light in color, about 1 minute.  Add egg, carrot puree and vanilla and beat and additional 30 seconds.  Add flour mixture and beat an additional 30 seconds.  Add oats, flakes, raisins and walnuts and mix over low speed just until incorporated.  Dough will be slightly sticky and less cohesive then traditional cookie dough.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using between 3-4 tablespoons of batter, form a ball and place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining batter, leaving about 3 inches between  cookies.  Wet hands and use the palm of hand to flatten cookies until about 1/4 inch thick.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until cookies are fragrant but still soft.  Let cookies cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you try them, please leave a comment to let me know how they came out and if you enjoyed them.

Happy Cookie breakfast to ya!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter Arrives!

Winter has arrived here at Grace Note.  The snow fell on Thanksgiving Eve, collecting about 10 inches here.  The trees were very laden with snow, branches bowing under the weight of it along with the ice that also formed.  Though we're used to winter after a lifetime of it, it's beauty is undeniable and stunning.  There are many hardships that come along with winter as well.  We lost our power for almost 4 days just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  We had decided not to have turkey this year as we were staying home just our little family unit, other family having other commitments or stuck at home in the storm.  We also felt that it was appropriate to have one of our homegrown chickens for a meal when we traditionally give thanks.
Having raised and harvested those chickens, seeing them through their lives and deaths, we felt enormously grateful for them and the nourishment they provided for our bodies.  We tried to do a totally local meal, and outside of the fact that we didn't do local stuffing, we had the chicken, our own sweet potatoes, pumpkin and apple cider from the farm stand at the end of our road, butter made from the cream of the milk we get each week from our milk csa share.  As we have an electric stove, we were not sure how successful the meal would be cooked on the wood stove.  We decided to kick it old colonial school style and cooked everything but the chicken on the top of the wood stove.
The sweet potatoes were wrapped in foil with butter, salt and pepper added.  The gravy was heated there and the stuffing made along with the pumpkin with butter and cinnamon and nutmeg.  Music Man did a beer can preparation for the chicken and cooked it on the gas grill, a little salt and pepper and olive oil on the skin.  The meal did come out better then I had expected, but the whole time I was preparing it, I was thinking this is how it was done after the advent of wood stoves.  Before that, the whole meal would have just been prepared over the open fire.  I imaged the generations of women that came before me here in this place, preparing the same meal I was.  The generation of women when it went from cooking over the open fire in our enormous fireplace to the addition of the wood stove and how they must have felt it was the height of convenience after cooking over the flames directly.
We also got a very comforting heat from this stove.  With the help of a friend, Music Man replaced the too small inadequate stove that was here with a second hand stove Music Man bartered for years ago.  It is a beautiful stove that was crafted in coal regions of England and will burn either wood or coal.  We have moved this stove around for the last 7 years from home to home, waiting for the right place to install it.  We have found that place.  It looks great here, feels more period to the house and also heats like a champ in this under-insulated old home.  I stayed, for two of the three nights we didn't have power, feeding it with logs every couple of hours and we stayed very comfortable.  For heat and cooking ability, we couldn't ask for more for a power outage. 
We also lost our ability to have running water.  We do have a small generator that could power some of the least draining appliances, like the TV, the refrigerator, the freezer in the garage that houses all our chicken and the pork we also bought from a local farmer.  But we have discovered that this house is wired very badly.  The water heater is hooked to all the upstairs lighting and outlets, the stove is hooked to too many things and the well pump is also wired with half of the other circuits in the downstairs.  Not only kind of dangerous, it causes us to not be able to run the important things like the stove and well pump because the generator isn't strong enough to power those along with everything else they are wired with.  So, we didn't have running water, but with the snow melt coming off the roof, we were able to collect enough in buckets to flush the toilets and water the dog and chickens.  I had enough drinking water to last us for a while, so we were fine there and other then having to heat water to wash dishes and not showering for too many days, we were fine with our lot.  The picture above shows the old well that is on the property, the original water source for the farm, and we probably could still draw water from it if we needed to, but the water would not be drinking water as I'm sure it's not bacteria free.

All in all, we are embracing winter's arrival and the beginning of the "rest" period.  Time for knitting, time for reading, time for garden planning, time for sledding and snowshoeing and many of the other activities that winter allows.  We do get tired of the shoveling and snowblowing and cold, but we do try to embrace the wonders and beauty of the season as well. 
Wishing you a warm and comforting arrival of winter at your farm,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Due Time

Feeling a bit...something...lately.  Since purchasing this old homestead, we've experienced our share of ups and downs.  This is certainly not something that Music Man and I are unaccustomed to.  In fact, well, we've had a lot of both.  For whatever reason, we've had a lot of turbulence during our 16 years together.  I suppose to some extent, that's to be expected.  Hell, life is nothing if it isn't ever changing.
But, by the same token...well, when we got this house, I really felt it was meant to be.  We waited and worked for a very long time for our little homestead.  One we could call our own, and change and plant and grow our own food.  A place for our kids to stay for a long time, to feel they truly belonged.  A place to raise our chickens, and get the dog we've wanted since we met.  But, to get a dog when you don't own the house you live in is a big risk.  If you're forced to move, and you can't find another place that allows dogs, you have to give it up.  I would no more do that then give one of my kids away, if we give one a home, with us it will stay.  So, we waited until we had the right place. 
Waiting for the boys bus to come
A long series of events brought us to the place where we were able to scrape together the down payment for this home.  Just barely, and it took most of what we had just to do that.  The events were years in coming, one failed attempt to buy a place after another brought us to the crossroads.  Were we just not supposed to be here in this town?  Did we chose the wrong place?  Are we supposed to be in a location more affordable, New England is so expensive to live in?  Should we leave most of our family and the place our boys love to start over somewhere else, again?  We really were unsure of what to do.  Then the tragedy fell that changed so many lives.  My very healthy mother-in-law passed very unexpectedly and way too soon.  We were deep in the grief of losing her, and discovered she left us enough money to put the down payment on this home that had until then, been way out of our price range.  We debated with what to do, should we spend the money for a house?  Should we save it for retirement?  What's the best choice to make for our family?

The boys are ALMOST in from the bus!!

In the end, we thought about what we truly needed at that time in our lives.  A place to make our home.  Not just a house, but a home.  We had agreed from our meeting that Music Man and I both loved antique houses. Having been built in 1755, this place sure fit the bill.  We wanted a place for big vegetable gardens, a barn big enough not just for our farming endeavors, but for Music Man's lifelong dream of a space to gather people and share music.  We wanted room for our boys to roam, preferably with woods where they could explore and a small field to play baseball in.  And we wanted space for the dog they had been begging for since almost birth.  We also thought long and hard about whether this would be something that my mother-in-law would want done with her money.  And that was one of the biggest factors for us in making the decision to purchase.  We felt she would have loved this place, would have loved us in the place, and seeing her grandsons playing and thriving and belonging here.  Yes, it seemed like it was meant to be.

We've been here almost  year now, we're just a couple of days shy.  After two concussions and a broken shoulder caused medical bills from our lousy insurance to mount, we've used a lot of the money we had pegged for renovations.  The honeymoon has worn off a bit, we've discovered that, being an older house, it needs things we could never have imagined. Some of them more urgent then we would have assumed.  Repairs that, in the end, are costing more then we are able to bear when they are needed.  It's a stressful time for us. I'm job hunting again after three years away, Music Man's company issued a mandatory pay cut for it's employees.  Yes, stress is the name of the game now.  The barn needs siding, like yesterday...and beam repairs. We've discovered that its roof will need replacing sooner then we originally thought. These are not small ticket items.  We have almost no insulation in the house, which in small would not be so bad, but in whole is a bit overwhelming.  And the furnace that is 25 years old is sporting duct work that will eventually need to be replaced.  The kitchen is there, but really needs to be expanded to meet the needs of a modern family that homesteads and makes 90% of it's food from scratch.  The to-do list around here is larger then we can ever accomplish with just the two of us working at it with our limited expertise.

But...we've also come a long way.  The first year living in a house, especially an older one, we didn't want to rush into changes.  I've made some mistakes along the way, like you'll remember digging up the asparagus bed not knowing it WAS an asparagus bed.  We ended up with a nice crop despite my eagerness to make it something else.  We got a great crop of sweet potatoes, but the white and red potatoes fell victim to a vole infestation.  We went through a lot of wood last winter using a stove that was here and inadequate for the size of this house, so we've replaced it with a wonderful stove Music Man bartered for years ago and have been moving around ever since. It heats more evenly and being cast iron holds its heat much longer.  We raised our first meat chickens here, and made the mistakes of the first time, lessons we learned and won't repeat.  We made a garden out of a yard and grew enough food to keep our family in veggies for the summer months with enough to put by a bit for the winter.  Next year's garden will be larger, and more planned out.  We've hosted holidays, birthday parties and friends for dinners.

We're building the life we wanted, by hook or by crook.  We want to preserve this place for the next generation.  It's a solid piece of history that is beginning to show some wear and need for attention.  How many people can say they had the privilege of living in a museum of sorts?  These walls were here when pounds paid for the deed, we weren't even an official country and people fought Native Americans to keep the house standing.  Flu, smallpox and tuberculosis may have killed family members in it's walls.  It's been here for a very long time, and we're hoping to have the chance to help it survive and become better.

We've really tried to embrace our new place, and we're hoping that in the end, we'll figure out the way to keep it ours.  At least until the boys are done with high school and on to their own lives, and we're settling down for a bit of retirement.  Preferably in a little seaside town called Freeport.  Until then, we're debating things like a campaign to save the barn.  It's not just a barn for us, after all, but one for the country as it's living history right here and now.  Lots of things in the thought-track, just needing to decide what to act on to get everything moving in the right direction.

A moment that's real for you,

Monday, October 6, 2014

Autumn Arrives!

Autumn is arriving here on the farm!  It's been a graceful introduction to the season thus far and we're happy for it.  This summer was not a terribly hot one here in New Hampshire, but we had a few stretches of weather that were too hot for this yankee girl.  Now, we're down into the much more enjoyable temperatures with all it's beauty.

We're slowly wrapping up the harvesting season.  I was able to put by quite a lot of food in the past two months, some from our garden, some from the farm stands and I was gifted 70 pounds of beautiful roma tomatoes from my good friend, Diane.  I made a lot of sauce, diced tomatoes, salsa, pizza sauce and even tried my hand at home made ketchup.  The fruit ketchup I chose to try had peaches and apples in it as well and a kick of some jalapeno peppers.  It's a delight and will be great to light up some winter dishes.  I never appreciated that condiment until I made it for myself.  It is a real load of work!  Next time you put the squeeze to the Heinz ketchup, be thankful that anyone is willing to take on that task, it's a time consuming one.  Along with the ketchup and tomato products, I was able to put by zucchini salsa, chicken broth and soup, waxed beans, pinto and cranberry beans, 3 types of jelly, and big vats of sauerkraut (which I'm fermenting for the first time!) and we've still the full apple collection to get through with apple sauce, butter and pie fillings still to come.  I would also like to try my hand at canning a bit of venison if Music Man happens to get a deer this year.   I did manage to dehydrate some foods as well including zucchini and cherry tomatoes and a bit of beef jerky.
Among the wonderful things to harvest here on the farm included some wild foraging, too!  These grape vines are covering way too many of our trees and bushes here and will need to be beaten back a bit.  Here you can see that it has taken a liking to our crab apple tree. In the meantime I was able to harvest a large basket of grapes from just the ones I could reach.
Now, if you've not tasted a wild grape, they are a taste sensation and way too sour to actually eat off the vine.  Following an age-old recipe, I made some grape jelly!  I call it Heritage Jam in honor of the fact that these grape vines have undoubtedly been here for many years.  The jelly is amazing in flavor, like none I've ever had before, I'm truly enjoying it.  The boys are not as keen on it as I am as it contains a bit less sugar then they like in their jelly, so more of an adult flavor I guess, but I'm smitten for sure.  I still have about 2 1/2 cups to make into one more batch and I will be doing that just as soon as I get the apples together for my apple lilac jam, too.
As we're approaching our one year anniversary in our home next month, we remember the woefully cold first winter.  Determined not to have a repeat of that, we've got 3 cords of beautifully seasoned hard wood split and stacked and ready to grace us with it's BTU's.  We're all getting ready in our own way for the coming winter.
Finding charming sights like this help me to remember that we're not alone in this preparation.  The squirrels have been busy with gathering their necessary larder as well and we should all be well fed over the winter. 
This is the view of the garden in the distance, now dismantled except for the kale, which has gone strong all spring, summer and now into the fall, the sweet potato vines which have small roots on them and many voles.  My entire potato crop was lost to the voles save for a few of them, and it looks like they've discovered the sweet potatoes also, not sure we'll see any ourselves.  One of my friends told me to put Juicy Fruit gum in the holes and it drives them away.  Worth a shot, I guess so I'll be picking some up the next time I'm out.  When I have to compete with the voles, they seem to get the upper hand, every time. My sunflowers, which you can also see from this picture were just beautiful until the gold finches decided to pull every last petal off of them!  Not sure why they are so offensive to them, but this is the third time I've grown them and every time, the gold finches do their damage.
I've got the indoors decked out for autumn, as well. Upcoming in a couple of weeks I will be gathering the women in my family for my annual tea.  This is our 7th one and a day I really enjoy and look forward to.  The men in the household go to their annual trip to visit with Little Red's godfather and his family, they live a couple of hours away.  They visit and bang on drums for a while and  I get to have some much needed female bonding time with my family.  A good time is had by all.
I guess I will wrap this up here.  Wishing you all a wonderful, fruitful, thankful, blessed autumn season.  I know it's my favorite time of the year, and I hope you will find the joy in it that I do.
Harvest wishes to you all, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Harvest Has Begun

Hello All!  A little update from Grace Note.  This is the haul from the garden today.  I will be harvesting my sweet onions pretty soon as well and my potato plants have begun the die off that will signal their readiness to harvest.  I've especially enjoyed the waxed beans and though I didn't get to plant many this year, they are abundant for what I do have and we've been enjoying them.  And, I managed to make a tomato convert out of Little Red.  That child doesn't like tomatoes, but when I told him to try one of the gold ones with the assurance that he would like them indeed, he scowled at me and reluctantly put it in his mouth.  His grimace turned to a smile and a pleasantly surprised "Hunh!".  He said, "Yah, those are okay".  Score one for Mom!  Nature's candy those little orbs, so sweet and juicy, there's no way you just can't love them.  I will for sure be doubling my efforts with those next year as they are great dried as well. 

One of the other things we discovered was zucchini chips.  Sliced thin with a little salt and dehydrated for a few hours and they are so yummy.  When you first put them in your mouth, well, you're just not sure.  Then the flavor grows on you quickly and you just can't stop eating them.  Not bad for a kid snack!  I'm glad we discovered them as the zucchini has been very abundant from the 4 plants I put in.  This year the garden is almost miniature compared to where I hope to have it next year, but we had to start somewhere with it and for what we did this year, we've gotten a nice crop so far.  We tried some sweet potatoes as well for the first time, and I'm anxious to see how they do.  I'm too nervous to pick any out yet, just want to wait and see what we get when the harvest is ready.

This past weekend, we also killed our meat chickens.  We left one egg layer that we weren't sure if it was a roo or not, and the day after we got them all processed, the little bugger started crowing.  He's a beautiful bird, but we just don't need another roo so he'll be joining his frozen brethren soon.  This was the first time we actually killed, plucked and eviscerated our own birds.  It was a difficult day for us and we did not enjoy any of the process.  Except when the freezer was full and we were all cleaned up and didn't have to fret over it any more.  Each bird's life that we took was as hard at the one before it.  Having to hold the chicken while it's life left it's body was a very hard task, knowing that you are the reason it lived and died.  Music Man did the actual killing while I held and it was a sick in the stomach feeling the whole time.  We did the roosters the first day and the hens the second. 

I will admit, I cried over the first hen.  For some reason, it hit me harder for the hens.  Maybe because I am female and I relate to them more, or maybe because we have pet laying hens and I could see them in these birds.  It was definitely a very solemn task for us.  I said a prayer of thanks over each bird, fully recognizing that their lives had ended so that we could eat.  Having been a vegetarian in my early 20's, that provided an even deeper understanding of what we were doing.  We are unsure of whether we will do this again next year.

It is hard to eat the meat and then not be willing to do the work to get it here in our little world.  We understand what horrible lives factory farmed chickens live and the terrible ways that they die.  It's really hard to reconcile that when you're eating the meat.  So, we gave that up years ago and had a local farmer and friend raising them for us.  That was acceptable, the meat was delicious, the chickens lived good lives and were humanely processed, but it still felt like a bit of a cop out somehow.  We do have a pig being raised by those same farmers this year, and we've discussed whether we will raise our own pigs next year.  This is also tough as they are very smart and social animals, so we would have to work hard not to bond to them.  We made a point of not bonding with the chickens and it was still difficult for us this year, so not sure about the pig.

Maestro is at the age where he is curious about a lot of things.  He wanted to be there with us helping out with the chickens, and he was a big help with the plucking process.  He helped Music Man eviscerate and me to pluck.  He was curious about how the chicken insides were put together and stretched them out and we examined the organs to see how they all fit together.  Morbid, maybe but it felt more like a science lesson then anything else.  Little Red, who is a big animal lover stayed on the outskirts of the scene, playing cars in the dirt and shooting us with Nerf gun darts.  He was not very happy with the whole idea of it, but understands that this is where chicken comes from.  And he likes to eat chicken, so he gets it.  He didn't want any part of it, though, and that's okay with us.  I was like him when I was 9 and couldn't have imagined being forced to take part in that.  So, we let him decide what level he was comfortable with and he did come closer from time to time to see what was happening, but on the whole remained a very distant observer.

So, we're producing food here.  That first roast chicken dinner was out of this world delicious. Next year will be on a bigger scale we hope and maybe even have a little to sell if we get the garden a bit bigger then it is now.  It's been a learning process for us as well and fulfilling in a way we've never experienced before.  We are truly learning the skills to become as self sufficient as possible.

That's about as fulfilling as life was meant to be, we believe.

Food harvesting with good faith,