Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Finding winners!

Harvested over 70 winter squash and pumpkins so far this year...and still more in the garden!
 And I found a new very favorite ...
Seminole pumpkin ...they are the smaller ones in the back if the gater here..
 Prolific, drought tolerant , poor soil tolerant and oh so sweet!!!!!! Sweeter than butternut...more like a sweet potato sweetness! With squash texture.... It will be a focus next year! We love them!
They are said to be great for storage ... We will see...
The geese have been the best livestock ever... I hope next years breeding season doesn't hold to much drama because these guys are great for a farm if you have enough grass.... Harvest day will be very sad.... But I will be so thankful... Just a very useful , low input animal.... Low input if you find goose drama entertaining :-) 
We've made a lot of progress this year..
My husband said he thinks we've made more progress this year alone than in the previous 4!
I think he's right!
We have learned so much more this year.
So much Praise to our Lord for keeping us healthy , so we are able to keep working this hard. 

Many blessings to everyone :-) 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Late Summer Sensations...

August is being kind to us here in my part of the south. Late summer isn't usually so comfortable! 
But it's been nice,,, upper 80's , cooler nights...not to dry , not to rainy...
Still producing are ground cherries, late provider beans, loads of okra, asian melons, feild peas, winter squash and dent corn is finishing up... our larger shiitake mushroom logs are starting to produce now!
Muscadine are ripening so early!  Waiting on pears.... and hoping my brother comes through with some black walnuts!
Seasonal eating at its finest here.....
Okra fritters with zuchinni relish .. Field peas topped with shiitake mushrooms and onions.. AND with crispy pork cracklings!
Just....So.... Incredible!!! All everything grown right here but the salt!

Yes... Dessert! My Asian melons made into a tasty sherbet!! This was also incredible!!! Sweetened with a tiny bit of honey.. Wow! What flavor !
See I think seasonal eating need not be a lost art.. With internet and websites like Pinterest it's so easy to find recipe ideas with whatever you have on hand!
We may have okra or squash almost everyday in the summer season .. But I promise it's never boring!

Score for the week...,
Sale rack seeds!!! As low as 2 cents a pack! The most expensive was the seed tapes at 35 cents!!!

Carrots,, mustard greens and kale in the ground...and Planted some sugar peas today! My husband better get in it and get my new green house set up!

Still so much more to plant for fall! I want this to be my best fall/winter garden yet!

I say that every year :-)


Monday, August 10, 2015

The Days all run together...

On the farm my days all run together... I never know what 'day' it is! Especially during the 'perfect storm' homesteading months... when garden upkeep meets harvest meets prepare garden for fall/winter gardens...
an Average day on the farm....

Have strong coffee... put my 2 little darling goats (yes yes goats again! doing a post on that later!) in an over grown pasture or woodlot to avoid parasite issues...
let out around 100 free range birds... watch as they chase, fight and start to forage ... check to make sure everything is as it should be... dogs in place... nothing dead or sick! as livestock illness can sneak up on ya! especially with goats... this is everyday..
then... what foods have to be delt with.... today tomatoes have to be dehydrated... 

winter squash have to be cured and stored.... theres SO many this year!!!!! over 21 cushaw in ... siminoles and TN vining are starting to finish too!
Had to pick the garden... at this point I'm becoming very very burnt out on the garden and preserving!!! So I have to 'pep talk' myself!!
pink eyed peas may have bombed this year (for the first time ever!) but whipperwill peas are making up for it!
Also had a huge bag of late provider green beans ready... a bunch of white velvet okra,,, asian melon, butternut squash and a few more tomatoes (tomatoes are almost done in by blight now and I'm wishing I had taken the time to plant a few late tomatoes to get me into fall) 
Meanwhile ,, in and out of the house to check the fat back I had started rendering in the crock pot... we use leaf lard for cooking... fat back for soap making. Our AGH lard is such a huge blessing and part of our food independance... and cosmetic independance too! All our soaps, shampoo and laundry detergent are made for our lard!
And meanwhile every trip in as I suffer from garden burn out I give a look to the beautiful cloud of angora fiber I'm itching to spin!!!! I did NOT like raising meat rabbits... nor did my husband... but I loved raising angora rabbits for the short time I had them..time management was the issue with them as they are fairly high upkeep!!..but much like the goats I had approached it all wrong. Will revisit Angoras later.. and post on it :-)
Balance on the farm... work/joy..... so hard to obtain but we're getting better Praise God!!!
Shelled some fresh whipperwill peas for dinner while downing an afternoon goat milk latte' ! Cant wait for dinner....
Out to do half my watering feeding chores.... and throw the geese some not prime tomatoes,, they love tomatoes!
Then back in to make some Cushaw cornbread to go with dinner... and finish straining my lard.. lovely bunch of cracklin's ....
Back down to the barn to milk Sugar and feed Gumdrop.. cut some tree branches for them and put them in their holding shelter for the night.. 
Back up to the house to strain the milk and wait for it to get cool enough to put up the poultry and waterfowl...
Then back up to finally eat dinner... which thankfully my husband cooked! Fresh catfish, whipperwill peas, cushaw cornbread and rainbow tomato...
perfect way to end another crazy busy day on Gods Blessing Farm.

Now for today...whew,.... just thinking about it I'm overwhelmed! which is why I took time to blog and sort of gather my head! and pep talk myself into getting ready to sweat while dust and dirt stick to me, get bug bites,  wade through itchy weeds and the thick humid air..... must focus on that high yield fall garden goal and filling the root celler for winter!
 I love it.... or certainly couldn't do it.... after all, I'd rather be busy than bored! somedays, especially in late summer I'd like to be less dirty and sweaty everyday!.. I'd certainly like less bug bites! Summer gardens are rough!!!!
My husband and I sometimes talk about what the heck we would do if we didn't do this... there are other options for us... we sure don't have to farm....but we did realize a major problem...after truly clean eating very healthy for these years...our taste buds don't like store bought foods...
and store bought or restaurant foods tend to make me extremly sick... or just leave me tired. 
yeah,, farming has trapped me! lol! I'd have to track down a farmer who's into growing vegetables , eggs, raw goat milk and meats like we do.... which we don't take the easiest road when it comes to raising our foods... quality over quanity here. And who the heck would I find to raise a true lard hog for me! Its hard enough to find someone to buy a feeder piglet from of our limited acceptable breeds. Which is primarily why we breed them ourselves. 
yeah... trapped now... for my health and the happiness of my taste buds....

Many blessings to you all... time to get to it!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Third times a charm...Or is it 3 strikes and you're out!

Well... They are back... Again.... 
And I'm praying and hoping that this time our approach will work!
Dairy goats... A main component of my dream farm..ah... As we know 'dream farms' or ' dream anything doesn't always work out. We built so much of the farm to accommodate dairy goats!
And every bit of what we built for goats has worked out to accommodate other livestock.
When you're raising over 90% of your own food priorities are very important and high input livestock had to be taken out of the equation. 
However... Our land is very much ' goat land' ...a few Weedy pastures.. Steep hills (which about killed the sheep I tried to keep!) tons of wood lots .. Many very over grown , wild and beautiful! Wouldn't trade my trees or hills for the most perfect pastures in the world!
Perfect pastures are good for sheep and cows...
Goats need weeds and over grown wood lots to be truly healthy .. It keeps them from getting barber pole.. Provides them with their natural high mineral foods and good stemmy fiber keeps their rumens working. All this also means no or very little feed bill making them economical..instead of an expense burden!
Pasture breeds barber pole , doesn't provide fiber or enough nutrition...
So here I am with great goat land and no time for goats.... Ok.. I had 30 goats! Lol!!
Way to many for the amount of fencing I had... Talk about breeding barber pole...
And a feed bill through the roof!
So bye bye goats! Incoming.. Sheep!
Then the dairy sheep bit the dust on my non sheep friendly land!
There's a lot to be said for getting the right kind of livestock for your land! It will make life with livestock somewhat easy.. 
So we brought in fainting goats... I had high hopes.. They are much hardier and easier to handle... They cost nothing to feed on my land... They could be milked as I had before..but much less milk,, less maintenance 
But it just wasn't right... I still felt like I didn't have time for them either... And i didn't 'love' the fainters... Dealing with animals is much easier when you truly love keeping them...It's as important as having the right natural resources for them... 
Anyways.. I had brought in 4 does and 2 bucks... Still To much to manage and keep up with! 
During this time I had struck up a deal with a couple of people to trade eggs for goat milk.. I do have a soap business and milks make the best soaps! My milk allergy doesn't allow for much milk but I can tolerate raw goat milk well in small amounts.. So , yes! Perfect deal!!
Then one of my sources needed all her milk for a new farm project she wanted to  try... All good... I have another lady with good milk... But she proved to be less than reliable when I needed that didn't work out either.
Now what!
Remember how I kicked chickens to the curb.. Ducks were more economical , easier to manage and worked way better as egg layers here and we liked their meat better...
Yes...all that... But missing chickens I brought in a few silkies , expecting to raise them and probably sell them because chickens really don't make sense to keep when something else works so well for the same purpose..

To my surprise they are the perfect chicken for our farm!!! Extremely economical ,, very easy to manage .. Good layers of small eggs and the most excellent chicken meat I've ever had...
Winner winner... Yum chicken dinner!
Now since my good experience with those chickens I have attempted to bring in other breeds I liked... They do not work as well as the silkies for us...

So with knowing this... One victory reintroducing a animal.. And then another fail... 
Why not try my first love livestock again.. Small dairy goats....
So I searched and found a doe in milk.. Big priority .. Easy to milk open orfices.. Got no time for hard to milk!!
Didn't not want a huge producer.. Didn't want any bred for show or papers.. Just bred for easy milking and easy to keep..
Found her! And bought her daughter too! Hoping her daughter has the same easy to milk udder!
2 does... That's it! A buck will be brought in for breeding and then he can leave....
All young goats they have will be for our food. Which we really like goat meat! One of our favorites .. Even though they don't yield as much as lamb we like it way better.

So far... So good....I have 2 holding areas for over night keeping.. One for summer, one for winter...
During the day they browse one of the over grown pastures or wood lots... I have more food here than 2 two mini goats ever consume!
At night Sugar is milked and I put them in the summer shelter area with some cut tree limbs to hold them over til morning...
No need to feed hay till everything has died late October or November probably...
It does take extra time to manage them but it's a small enough amount of time I can spare in exchange for milk, some weed control and meat.
And Ofcourse maybe some nice pelts! Kid leather is so nice!

This gives me hope I can add back a couple of my favorite rabbits.. Angoras.
The only rabbits I ever liked!
I'm a spinner and crocheter .. Angora is my favorite fiber .. And it's so hard to find good angora wool!! And Harvested to my standard...
So it's a venture I'm willing to try with a couple to see if it works...
Different approach... 
Picking 2 buns up this weekend so we will see how this venture goes! 
Well I hope!

More of this subject later...
Many blessings!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Unusual Garden Goodies

My garden has certainly had its ups and downs the last 5 years as I've tried to develop a system... which is hard when my garden keeps expanding to new areas!
I pretty much have my staple crops down and the varities we like, tried and true preformers of green beans, sweet potatoes, okra, winter squash, cucumbers, corn, southern peas... finally just this year I've narrowed down the best varities of tomatoes for us. 
Figuring out the garden is as hard as figuring out which livestock works best!

And then theres this.... I don't know what these are... I mean,,, they are obviously tomatoes!! But I don't know the variety ... they are a wild reseeding tomato that come up every year. I'm sure they are a cross of this and that but they always come back like this... small, bright red and sweet!!!!!
and something else... they seem almost immune to mold and fungus diseases that bring down tomatoes in the southeast...
Sometimes with all the tomatoes I plant they get over looked unless I'm walking by to grab some to pop in my mouth but this year I made a point of picking a bowl full... and now I will be picking all I can because they made the most wonderful Tomato Jam!!!! I can't even tell you how amazing this stuff tastes!! 
So I'll be making an effort to pick these now... huge bonus from the garden that took no input from me. I like that!
This is the prettiest corn I wont be growing again... I say this now before I've tasted it ... but even if its awesome... probably not... it is a flint corn I got from a seed saver.. beautiful.. grew ok,, small stalks.. didn't take up alot of room like my giant dent corn. But the ears are half the size and only one ear per stalk. So certainly not as productive as I want a grain corn to be here. Still can't wait to eat some though!!!! This was my first time growing a flint corn and I'm not sure flint corns are good in our area. Dent corns thrive here and
I'd love to find a productive variety of flint or flour for our area. I like to have a some diversity in my garden ! That way if one crop fails... I can have hope the second will come through for me!
Ground cherries have been an amazing addition to our garden this year!! Wow! are they good!!! At first bite I wonder why they aren't offered commercially...they keep incrediably well and why doesn't everyone who gardens grow them!! 
Mid season I see why... they are huge sprawling plants that can be a huge pain to harvest!!!!! they are good!!!! and productive .... plus they fill a very big void for us...
they take the place of raisins... we grow muscadines, a type of grape but they can't be made into raisins.. we love having a dried fruit in the winter to sprinkle on cobblers or hot cereals.. these are even better than raisins and dry beautifully!!! and I think I have a plan on how to plant them for an easier harvest... we'll see next year if that works!
Because they really need a place in our garden and our diet! Especially since our fruit trees haven't started producing. Our main fruit on the farm is wild blackberries... and then we forage/beg for those hard canning pears no one seems to want. And get very inexpensive seconds from an apple orchard for canning, cider and drying apples... so fruit is a weak point in our food supply on the farm,, this is such a welcome addition!
This year I made a huge discovery... right by my main garden... the garden I started the first year!! and have gardened every year! On the other side of the fence in a wood lot by this garden... a huge elderberry bush!!
And this year I bought and planted 4 elderberries.... I can't believe I didn't see it!! Its huge!
But the first 3 years here that wood lot was so grown up.. so I just didn't notice with all the over growth... last year we had fenced in the area but put sheep in to eat it back some..
yeah,,, don't let anyone tell you sheep don't eat trees! lol!! They ate everything in that wood lot! Including this elderberry I guess!
(they also tried to eat our grape vines... so much for the 'let the sheep keep your vineyard trimmed and mowed' ...yet another homesteading myth so many buy into because why?? it sounds like its going to make having a vineyard easier.. kinda like let pig plow your garden LOL!! my favorite homestead fiction! please put this in your head.. Nothing about farming and raising your own food is easy... even the stuff thats 'easier' isn't really easy... its just easier than the stuff that kicks your butt!)

Anyways... the sheep ate everything..trees and all!
But this year only some younger pigs AGH are in the area... so I look up one day in the spring and there it is.. about 20 ft. tall and full of blossoms! I've been watching it for mouths and finally I get to pick some fresh elderberries from my own property! When the ones I planted kick it it will be a very happy time for me!  
Another wonderful new discovery this year... yard long beans! Productive,, tasty and they don't seem to be bothered by any pest that normally harasses my bean plants... it wont cross with green beans,, but I do have to keep it away from my southern peas. Its a good thing for low input variety in the garden I will grow them again!

Better get to work... I have BBQ sauce on the list to make and can today.... green beans to prepare and can.... and a duck to cook!
Plus trying to rearrage my work room! and get some reading in..I have some new and old (love used book stores!) books I'm loving right now!! Takes 25 minutes to process green beans... nice time for a chapter!
Then tomorrow ... hard work coming! Have to prepare my over grown and spent garden beds for fall planting.. trying to get some new things in earlier than usual this year if the weather allows and if the pests will back off a bit! wow! the beetles are crazy this year!!! Worse year I've seen them... they are even trying to eat my comfrey..thats a first.

Have a blessed day :-)
Psalm 35:1

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Definition of Fun on a Subsistance Farm

Just about every other day now is canning/preserving day! Pick one day, preserve the next...
This years tomato crop has boomed for a couple of weeks now...from my tomatos alone this year i have canned around 64 jars of ketchup, soup tomatos, pizza sauce and salsa... bbq sauce is on the list to can as soon as my ketchup goal is reached.... which is what I'm canning to day! that and more green beans (will put me at 48 quarts of green more run and that goal is met!)
I have also dried quite a few romas and yellow pears... which is really easy!

I'm hoping if tomato season goes long maybe I can experiment with some new canning recipes!!! gotta get the staples done first though! I did allow myself to experiment with a new green beans recipe this year before my goal was met.. just needed alittle fun that day! lol!!
Gosh, farming has sure changed my definition of fun!
I grow basil every year! I love fresh basil... all different kinds... my favorites have to be thai basil and lemon basil.. I never dry basil only enjoy it in season because died basil just leaves my taste buds feeling sad. It can be frozen with better results but I try not to freeze to much and save that space for our meats.
This year because my lemon basil is especially strong I've decided to try preserving it a couple different ways to see if I can capture the flavor..
Infusing in olive oil (a rare oil in our household since we grow our own fats but I was unsure if I could infuse in duck fat or lard )
also trying to infuse with red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
I've done alot of other infusing for preservation this year. A very good way to preserve herbs! As my herb gardens expands so does its uses ...from culinary to cosmetic to medicinal...
Truth be told I'd rather be outside playing in the dirt or searching in the woods to see what I can find... but ALL the work that goes into raising my own food... cant stand to see any go to waste if theres some way to preserve it!! Plus... we do have winter in TN.. the winter garden would be mightly boring eating without some of my lovely preserved summer bounties.
 I like to set high goals, as high as i think I can handle anyways since I do this all this preserving on my own for the most part (I did get my future daughter in law to help some but shes so busy with the new baby!)
Just in case of crop failure in following years and so I can share with my son and his little family.
Preserving is fun.... in a farm kinda way ;-)

Inspiration verse when I don't want to be inside preserving my harvest...
Proverb 6: 6-8

Blessings :-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Perfect Storm... Farm style!

In the spring things pick up the pace here on the farm... It's a good steady pace that I fine very enjoyable!
Poultry is breeding so they have to be managed more, babies are coming !! Planting spring gardens.. Finish up harvesting the winter gardens... 
I love all this!!!!
Then early summer hits with the seasons first squash, beans and cucumbers.. Nice! Preserving the harvest can start...
Its not to hot... Pests aren't out full force.. Weeds are there but nothing I can't handle! Garden maintenance is enjoyable to me ... At this point!!!!

Then full on summer hits!!!!!

The perfect homesteading storm! If you watched the movie Pefect Storm you know it was the perfect storm for the weather people reporting it... Not for anyone in it!!

Hard, full on garden maintenance hits!!!
Pests, weeds, if there's not enough rain irrigation has to happen... All this meets....
Tomatoes are coming in....beans and squash are peaking!!! Okra, melons and winter squash may be starting ... Gotta watch don't want to miss any!!! Blackberries are here but just for a little while!!!
It's hot!!!! Humid!!! It's like working in a sauna .. But harvest waits for no one...
So on top of that....
Gotta get it picked!!!
Can it, dry it, ferment it.. Eat mass amounts of it! Lol!!!

On top of that....All that super cute baby poultry I have.. Not little babies anymore!! Now they are eating more.. Must make more food! Have to Take extra precautions to make sure babies are safe and can't get out if pastures... 
Have to make sure mothers want to be mothers! Or else I have to bring them in and brood them...

All this ... And yes... Something else that HAS to happen during this time...
Prepare garden beds for fall planting.. Fall planting has to happen soon! Or else there won't be a fall harvest of cauliflower .. Cabbage and other yummy cooler season veggies!

It's pure craziness...
I remind myself ... I am very blessed...
And I'd rather be busy than bored ;-)

"She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness " Proverbs 31:27

Certainly no time to be idle on a substance farm!