Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When the low tunnels come out ...winter is here

We had our first hard frost a few days ago so I decided to pick the last of my carrots and a bunch of mustard & turnip greens that I didn't want going to cover...
But even with it getting down to 20 here my other uncovered beds were fine!
It's amazing how cold hardy some of the greens are!
Went ahead and covered this bed.. Just in case!
Last year I had 3 covered beds with more variety. This fall I couldn't get my cabbage, kale and collards past the rabbits and I couldn't get broccoli past the cabbage moths... Next year we have plans to try and avoid these pests..,
But for this year I'll have to make do with mustard and turnip greens .
I may try sprouting some cold hardy veggies in the green house .. See if I can get some variety going!
Plus it's an excuse to grow something..
At the end of summer I'm so tired and burnt out from the garden and harvest I can't imagine having to prepare ground and plant anything else!!
but within a couple of weeks I'm ready to plant again, wishing for spring ...
Our wood cook stove is finally here!
One of our goals on the farm is try to eliminate using the central heat .. It only makes sense to get a wood stove also set up for cooking. Put that wood to good use!! This stove also has a water tank for hot water should I ever need it.
It's early thanksgiving morning as I write this .. Our dinner will actually be tomorrow night. Really looking forward to cooking because I grew a heritage turkey this year...we grew almost everything that will be on the table!! 
Only four little ingredients had to be purchased!!
I am truly thankful... 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Getting ready for spring in the fall

Every summer crop has been harvested and the plants killed by frost now.. So preparing for our next spring garden is happening!
Empty beds must not stay empty for long! Putting to bed my raised beds that aren't being used for fall/winter crops are important as fertilizer ... Because in a sense this layer of straw mulch .. Or whatever I mulch with is part if my fertilizer as well as it keeps my topsoil in place and all the micro organizims and earthworms safe and happy! 
Well nourished soil grow nourishing vegetables!! 
Through out the winter other things will be added to the beds.. Layers of chicken, duck or goose bedding and manure,, perhaps a layer of cardboard ,,, layers of donkey manure are sure to be included! 
Dead Leaves are excellent! Layers of egg shells and coffee grounds make their way into the garden also...wood ashes we collect are great for carrot beds !  Everything contributes to well balanced soil. 
Plus all this moving to cover and add matter to the beds through the winter keeps me from getting out of shape and lazy come busy spring and summer! Very important! I get lazy so easy if I allow myself too. 
Another favorite activity for me on the farm in the winter.... Reading up on my favorite and new garden books.. Taking notes and Studying different varities that may work well for us here.. Garden planning!! Yes I do think these things are fun! Lol
This is one of my favorite gardening websites...

It's such an organized site of farming for optimum nutrition...keeping in mind that a healthly vegetable can't be grown in unhealthy soil.. No matter what it is...
And livestock can not produce a healthy food if not fed a healthy diet in the first place. 
I read so many articles that try to make farming for nutrition so complicated ... It's really quite simple in theory .. Though maybe hard to achieve given the modern farming ways most have embraced. 

Meanwhile my fall greens gardens & carrots continue to thrive ... 
I admit to going way over board on the mustard greens....that's ok ,, the geese eat them too! And I'll be experimenting with some green kraut recipes!
Garlic making it's appearance!! Once it gets up a few more inches I'll be giving it a layer of leaf mulch on top of the duck manure compost I added to this bed. 
So even things feel like they are winding down... There's still plenty to do!

It's a chilly today... During the first really chilly days I have to make chili Ofcourse!!
So that Along with some corn chips and rosemary pumpkin humus.. Perfect fall dinner! Fall and winter mean more time to experiment with recipes!!!

So Along with obsessing over next years gardens...Before the madness of spring hits next year , I'm hoping to find time to make lots ginger beer and ginger champagne ... I want to make Real Hominy from our hickory king corn! 
and crochet up some of my handspun yarns I've made over the years. 
I'm going to try my very best to enjoy the slower pace of winter this year.. As slow as it can be here anyways! 
Try to take time and be thankful for all these blessings that are so abundant in my life!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Farm stuff!

Best sweet potato pie ever!!!
We've been chowing down on all the small and damaged sweet potatoes from our harvest since they won't keep very long... Not a bad thing since sweet potatoes is one of my very favorite foods!
I've made a lot of sweet potato pies over the years but this one!!!!
The secret ... Rosemary in the cornmeal crust and using duck or goose egg for the filling... It's a wow moment !
Everything used to make this pie was grown on the farm except the cinnamon.
Very simple recipe with tons of flavor...

GBF Rustic Sweet Potato Pie recipe 

•1 1/2 cup cornmeal ( I use fresh ground white hickory king dent corn)
•1/4 cup of honey
•2 tsp. rosemary
•1/2 cup lard ( preferably leaf lard from a real lard hog will give the best results) 
•enough cold water to make it moist 

Mix and press into a pie dish that has also been rubbed in lard to prevent sticking. Cook until lightly browned at 400.

•2 cups cubed sweet potatoes 
•1/2 cup of honey
•3 ducks eggs or 1 goose egg
•3 tbsp of leaf lard
•2 tsp of cinnamon

I smash the potatoes not purée because I like a chunky 'rustic' type pie.. After I smash them I add all other ingredients, mix well , pour into the crust and bake at 400 for 20 minutes then reduce to 350 for about another 15.

I'm so proud of my pilgrims for laying in the fall!!! Here's a pilgrim goose egg by a chicken egg.
If geese laid eggs all year I'm not sure I would really keep any other birds.. 
Well maybe a few for variety ! I do love the poultry!

And I love my angoras!!!!
Smokey girl is almost ready for another trim!!! Sweet, calm when being groomed.. Just a darling to deal with. Her adult coat is coming in beautifully! I'm very pleased with her lack of matting up even though I have not been as attentive with grooming as I should have been lately. Can't wait to spin it up!! 
Added more donkeys to our farm.. A jack and jenny.
Sweetest jenny I've ever been around and she's the most perfect size!!
Not to big, not to little .. My husband calls her the 'goldilocks donkey ' cause she's just right! So is the jack! 
My first girl is a bit larger.. She will be trained for me to ride if I ever get time!

Farm life is good... But so not looking forward to doing all my chores in the steady pouring rain. Blah! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Just another day in the life of a subsistence farmer in Tennessee

Ahhhh... The homestead, simple life...
Not exactly :-)

I've been trying to make down time each day this fall...to read one of the hundreds of books I have.. Or take extra time for grooming some of my fiber livestock... But that doesn't always happen ...
We also try to plan day trips or date nights once a week so I have something to look forward to.... Not bring on/staring at the job site (aka the farm) is important for stress relief ... I don't care how healthy you eat and how much exercise you get ,, if you're stressed you will make yourself sick! We do good sticking to this for a few weeks...
But day trips and date nights Dont always workout either....
Like We had planned to get out of town today... But since we went to look at donkeys yesterday we kinda made a half day trip out of it...still I was looking forward to *really* getting out of town today!!!! 
But that's the way the cookie crumbles...
And back to the homestead work...
It's a beautiful fall day....and garlic needs to be planted before the rain comes in tomorrow night... So I planted a large raised bed of garlic today... And....

I canned mushrooms! A friend gave us about 8 lbs of mushrooms from the local mushroom farm.. These will be a nice treat to add to soups this winter!

While those were processing I melting and strained the bees wax from last weeks honey harvest!
Looking forward to making some body butters & balms with this!
Then Shredded some cabbage and filled up the crock ... Sauerkraut on the way!
Regular chores... Takes me around a hour to feed and water all the livestock im in charge of.. ( around 60+ birds right now, 6 angora rabbits, a donkey, llama and a goat.. For now!) 
Yeah,,About an hour if I hustle...And IF I don't stop and spend extra time with the donkey or llama.. Hard to do! I try not to though.. I like to get through all the chores then go back and mess with them later! :-)
I have got to downsize more of my poultry !!!!!!!!!!

Thankfully my husband is making dinner tonight!
Cause I'm pretty tired.
For now though, I'm gonna go brush the llama and the donkey!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Honey, mulberries & turkeys

It's been a long time coming... Our first honey harvest! 
The honey bees have been one of the most expensive ventures here on the farm so far and fairly difficult to get going.
But it's a missing link here.. Very worth the expense and work. A very important part of what we are trying to accomplish. Just over 3 gallons of honey here and it should last us around 6 months... Longer if we are a tad greedy with it!
All the credit goes to my husband on this one . He's totally in charge of the bees and has done a good job with them.
Oh the turkeys ... Big now,, only 3 left... And it's fall... So their time is running out :-( 
I'll be sad to not have turkeys but I know my limitations (usually!) and breeding another species of bird does not fit in with 2 separate silkie flocks , 3 separate goose flocks and 2 separate duck flocks!
They sure are pretty...
Here's the most amazing fruit tree we've ever planted ! It's a mulberry tree... It was a little stick when we got it and now look in just one season!! I wish I had ordered more ! If the 2 I ordered get through winter ok I will!
This tree was even nice enough to produce a couple of mulberries... Just to let us know how delicious they are!!
Pretty much every thing we eat comes from our own farm now...
For all the endless effort , hard work  and defeats.
The rewarding victories on the plate ..
Improved health , knowing our animals are treated wonderfully and the way the food tastes ... 
It's worth it :-)

I'm amazed at how many days I spend dealing with food from sun up to sun down .... Planting, preparing , preserving, breeding, feeding , protecting ..., seems incredible that it takes this much time to produce food!
But I've never in my life been more appreciative of food... And Never felt more blessed to have it! 

Enjoy the fall... Winter is so close !!
Be blessed :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A reason to have donkeys..

I think donkeys,, like Geese, are a much underutilized animal on the small farm.
With all livestock we manage here I need multiple reasons to keep an animal.
There's a lot a donkey can add to a farm!
Donkeys can be good guardians for at risk livestock , they can pull cart or carry a pack,, you can ride them, use their manure for the garden that they pile up in an easy to pick up manner!
 they are good eaters of weeds that not even my goats will eat . Providing the valuable job of keeping the pastures from being taken over by noxious weeds.
And .. Important... I LOVE them! 

But maybe , most importantly , you can milk them .... For what some people believe is the healthiest milk available for human consumption ....
So... Introducing Amaris... Which in Hebrew means ' given by God'
Not like the goats or sheep I've milked...milking a donkey sounds a bit more complicated ,,, But that's ok because the health benefits of the milk are outstanding. And you won't get a ton of milk , but you don't need to drink a ton for the benefits !
And this is the number one reason I'm bringing them to this farm!
Good health is priceless...and as active as the farm requires us to be so we can feed ourselves it becomes something I think about often.. Staying healthy and doing everything I can to be able to farm as long as I can! And provide my family with the healthiest homegrown foods around!
Now, I'm not the healthiest girl .. I wrecked my digestive system years with junky inflammation causing foods before the farm.. I can't tolerate cow or sheep milk well... Goat milk even has to be in moderation. 
To be honest I would like nothing more than to be able to replace the dairy goats with dairy donkeys! I find donkeys very calming to be around... Cute as they are , goats drive me crazy!!! But Since donkey milk isn't good for cheese making I'll have to keep a couple of trouble making goats around , which will be good for future guardian baby donkeys to be around.
Back to the donkey milk!
Just google it! Donkey milk sounds quite amazing... And Not as uncommon in some country's as the States.
There are actual working Donkey Dairys in other countries!

I've got my first jenny .. Searching for a second jenny and a gentle jack now...
Jenny's are pregnant for about a year so it's a long wait... But I think I will enjoy the wait :-)

I look forward to this project and being able to work with these gentle , smart and very useful animals.

Given by God.. Like everything else I have..and I am ever so thankful!!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Utility Livestock and Fun Livestock ... Fighting for a balance

I struggle with balance in this lifestyle!!! Its so hard to find the fun sometimes on the homestead (job site!!!!) The main gardening season can be brutal but its so very rewarding because the health benefits of growing all our own organic vegetables and grain corn are the most important thing here and have improved our health the most! So I'll take that brutal work and love it!
One thing that brings me the most struggle is the animals.
I love animals/livestock!
But I can't just keep a bunch of animals cause I love'em! Our subsistence farm model requires the animal be useful as possible... And as low input as possible.
I must learn to love the ones that are most suited , most needed and most productive for our land and natural resources.
Sometimes there's no fun in that...
But other times...
Take chickens...I love chickens!!!!
Chickens eat a lot... don't lay well through the winter and if you free range their eggs can be impossible to find some times....They are just not very economical... Especially the duel purpose heritage breeds that have been primarily bred for shows..They are annoyingly hard to manage if you free range! Flying into gardens.. and outside of the guardians fence lines, only to get killed off by a passing coyote ....
For a year I gave up chickens in favor of ducks ..ducks lay by 10 am and the mallard type breeds can't fly!  Plus Excellent eggs and meat! They eat less than the chickens I used to have ..only by alittle.
But I sure did miss chickens..... When selling all my high maintenance dairy animals and fiber animals I found I had time for a 'fun' animal! So yay! I'll get some silkie chickens!! Just 5 for fun ! (I have way more now!)
They have turned out to be the lowest input chickens I ever had.. Super easy to manage! Produce great eggs on a fraction of other breeds I had.. early maturing layers (my utility silkies started laying around 4 1/2 months! And the meat , which is unique... Some of the best we ever had.
Now the silkies are a really low input 'fun' animal on the farm! ahhhhh.... balance :-)
Some of y'all may have read my articles on our livestock guardian disasters....ya know...my dislike for livestock guardian dogs (but my appreciation for a good one!)
But even with a so called good one....I don't enjoy them.. 
 I do enjoy well behaved Llamas!! So after my first and only guard llama disaster 5 years ago I worked up my courage to try another one...
and ... its a fun animal!!! Llamas are beautiful and much more of a multi purpose animal than an lgd. Not only used for a guard.. I can get fiber from them, use their manure for my garden.. I can train her to wear a pack and take her with me on wild mushroom hikes...
can't do none of that with a guardian dog!
yes! another good utility livestock 'fun' animal!!!
Oh my geese!!!! Heres a winner winner! If you've  read other posts you know I adore the geese!! Meat, large seasonal eggs, down , manure for gardens.. So entertaining! 
 I enjoy geese immensely!!! they are wonderful (the best!) livestock ever imo!
I could watch them all day! Incredibly useful to our farm and fun to keep.
I freely admit I hated raising meat rabbits... and my husband will also admit, he hated them too!
I also did not care for other breeds of fiber rabbits I tried (already did a post on that)
.... but these adorable... sweet.... calm English angoras and english angora crosses :-) I so love them!!!
When I got into fiber rabbits I was told not to get English or English cross... that the grooming was way to much work!!
Since I"m a very busy farmer I listened.... but because the french and german rabbits I tried where rowdy they really took twice as long for me to groom than a sweet English.
I need to raise my own fiber! After spinning awhile, Its just not as fun if I can't throw some of my own farm raised stuff into my yarns!
These guys.... very nice balance!
Outside of the grooming which I love with these rabbits.. I use their nicely piled up manure for my gardens and Ofcourse their fiber! If I should have to cull .. We do like rabbit meat. Very multipurpose here!
Bonus!  Because they are smaller than other angoras and meat rabbits I have no problem foraging and growing most all their food! Making them extremely affordable to raise. 

If you farm you know it's not all fun.. Far from it! 
 The goats we need for weed control & milk.. also a good meat and manure source! Sure they are cute and Fun to watch but they are so much work.. It's hard for me to find a lot of balance/fun with them! They are probably our highest input animals.. Especially from a management stand point. They have horrible parasite issues, birthing issues are common, mastitis and just in general not the hardest livestock out there for the southeast! The climb on fences, head butt things.. scream for me like a 2 year old wanting to be feed every single time they see me!!! Always trying to break into the feed room... oh I could go on about the management of goats!! 
I don't think cows, yaks, camels or water buffalo are a dairy option for us...I tried dairy sheep and they did horrible here!
so goats it is! For as long as I can stand the adorable trouble makers! haha!

The muscovies are hands down the most amazing mothers! Sometimes hatching out 3 clutches a year! Very self sufficient and can feed themselves if you have the resources... Very good meat producers ,, decent seasonal egg production. Plus,, They are quirky and fun to watch! Friendly!! Beautiful!   
But a management nightmare!!! They fly!!
They fly very very well.... This is Not good. They are also escape artist finding any hole in the fence to squeeze through.. And even with a clipped wing I have watched them climb over a 4 foot fence..
Oh yes,  I don't really like pigs.... our AGH pigs are nice though compared to the other commercial and heritage breeds!!! No giant hateful pigs here! 
I do like what they give us!!! Rich red meat and lots of snow white lard! Lard has taken our sufficiently to a whole other level! I love it!
I'd rather have it than the meat... though the meat is incrediable... Being able to use the lard for so many things makes them a very useful animal! And very low input really.., atleast this breed is!
I've personally always had a thing for Kune Kune... and Kune Kune crosses!
They are abit different I've read ... But...

will they be a fun animal on the farm..... thats a hard one!
They sure are cute though!
Got a deposit on this girl.. Can't wait to bring her home !
Don't know that pigs ' can' be fun for me but our AGH lard pigs are sure low input and useful .
Working to find balance on our farm will probably always be a challenge! 
For now... I'm up for it ;-)

God Bless!