Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lost Art of Seasonal Eating

One of the best things about growing my own food is eating seasonally.
I have always liked to cook, like to can, love to bake!
but doing it seasonally was challanging...we are a country of people that eat what we want, when we want... no matter the season.... tastlesss veggies from south america or other countries, packaged food full of preservatives ... maybe it hits your craving but it does nothing for your health....which is why alot of people want to farm to begin with... healthy,tasty foods! if youre Thinking you want to grow your own food??
Better start thinking outside the box when it comes to cooking and start eating seasonally!
like everything else on the farm, it was a learning curve,,, one well worth the time and trouble...
When things don't come in a package you have to cook by the seat of your pants... and use whats on hand...
the things I grow aren't always in my recipe books ( ground cherries, goose, )... nor are there an abundance of recipes for certain veggies I have in abundance ( mustard greens )!
Learning to  love tomato or green bean salads in the summer instead of lettuce salads( lettuce dies in our heat here) ... substituting an in season ingredient for an out of season ingredient in a recipe...
Some people have a problem doing this but once you get used to it I promise you will not want to eat any other way!
Its fresh, healthy... and tastes better than anything you can buy out of season or in a package.

.... in TN we have 4 lovely seasons. I like to think each season has its own cusine :-)
In the winter I did a post on the 5 days of cushaw .. winter squash is a major food in the winter... summer squash, except what I dehydrated is long gone... winter cusine is a mix of home preserved foods from summer ,  foods that store well and fresh vegetables I grow in my winter gardens under low tunnels....
now I get asked all the time... doesn't canning destroy the nutrition in the foods...
well, certainly not all the nutrients are destroyed! it's not as nutritious as fresh, but my naturally grown, no presevative canned foods I say are alot more safe than fresh out of season veggies from another country!! Preserving foods for times when not much grows is a way to survive and has been since the dawn of time... having preserved homegrown food is a blessing and a treasure in the winter. I also dehydrate and sometimes freeze,,, although I prefer not to have to much of my vegetable and fruit supply for winter dependant on the freezer... The four season garden can only do so much... preserving the bounty from your farm needs to happen unless you live somewhere with no winter.
Spring, summer and fall... except for relishes, corn for grain and pickles..its pretty much all fresh foods for our climate here.

We were having a hot June and going into July its wet... rabbits have had a field day with some of the things in my garden which make me relie on the things that they didn't want to eat! This is all an adjustment when you're growing your own food..... I was counting on provider beans... the rabbits ate them all,, thankfully my dragon tongue beans did well in a more protected area so they have been my go to bean for eating and canning this summer.

Right now we have a few new potatoes, beans,leeks, garlic, basil, an abundance of summer squash and cucumbers... starting to get into tomato season and okra is coming...
we have plenty of eggs, have slaughtered 10 ducks and a hog so we also have a good bit of lard and duck fat.

Average summer dinner....summer herbed sausage pattie with pepper relish (canned from last years garden).. sauteed green beans and asparagus beans with fresh garlic in lard,,,,
duck hearts and livers sauteed with leeks in lard...  roast new potatoes in duck fat,, fresh slices of yellow pear tomato.
We even serve seasonal foods to guests ..why go to the store for products not as good as what youve got...entertaining with a fresh from the garden menu is so nice! And actually pretty easy... 
.. for summer entertaining we may have green bean salad,  flat bread made from my homemade cornmeal, zuchinni and duck eggs... topped with heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil,,,
grilled pork chops, a dessert made with fresh berries wild crafted or cultivated.

Breakfast .... never has it been the most important meal of the day for me... until I farmed!

Average summer breakfest.... duck eggs, summer squash rolled in cornmeal and fried in lard, slices of fresh tomato .. maybe an herbed sausage pattie.

In the winter we still get eggs but the veggies would change from squash to fresh greens, sauerkraut and maybe a peice of bacon.
I believe in veggies for breakfest... and every meal really!!!!

Most people may think our breakfasts are a bit strange .... but we have grown to really love them and the outstanding energy we get from them to help tackle the work day.

Being flexible in what you 'think' breakfest, lunch or dinner should be is a must here....
Some things I used to love just can't be grown in TN... so I have had to learn to love the things that can be grown here even more... and I do!
 Different ways of preparing and substituting what's available have been a key in our success to cutting our ties with the grocery store.

Sorta like learning to love the livestock that's productive here... not hold onto the livestock that couldnt cut it here! 

I do get discouraged by the failures ... like this season...the rabbits eating all my provider beans... the excess rain washing away my mulch making way for weeds....or some plants, like my pepper not doing as well this year as last..... cracked tomatoes from to much rain....articokes looking like they are not going to work out again! I could go on.....

but I have to adjust the menus and focus ( and if you're going to grow all your food you will too!) on the fact that even though all is not perfect in the garden or barnyard.... I gathered a whole bushel of vegetables today!
I canned 6 pints and 4 half pints of wild blackberries and have a dehydrator full of tomatoes and ground cherries....
I ate breakfest , lunch and snacks today ,  ALL things grown on my farm... and my husband and I will sit down to a dinner all grown right here.... in season vegetables and recently slaughtered meats from livestock we grew..maybe from an animal i had never planned to grow in the first place.... but if it's what works....

Accept it, learn to cook it and love it..... keys to homestead success
and abundant blessings.... Praise the Lord for the things that work out!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Must have mass amounts of jars to homestead!!!

I go through the jars!
I have shelves and shelves of canning jars.. There are never enough jars!!
And the season to use them is creeping up on me...
Since the exit of the time sucking ruminants from the farm I am able to actually gather the herbs that grow wild on our farm and from the herb garden I have been working on for 5 years!
So excited to have my very own St. John's wort infused oil!!!
This stuff is a life saver when I pinch a muscle in my back or neck!
Just look at this lovely color!! 
Harvest is starting to make it's way into my kitchen!
I've already put up around 14 jars of duck broth, 33 jars of different relishes and this is my second run of green beans... 14 down.. 42 more to go!
Waiting on tomatoes to hit! Then the craziness really starts! I have the most wonderful short cut to canning tomatoes though ! More later..
We had a hog processed last month and I'm getting around to rendering out the leaf lard now.
This stuff is such an important part of our self sufficiently ... All the fats from the animals we raise are!
Makes more use of the animal we are using for food.. It's healthier... Definatly 
More sustainable..,
And oh,, so many uses!!!

Very busy days ahead of us here... It's half exciting and half scary! 
Gotta keep up with the garden!!! And in this heat... Wow! TN is having August heat in June.. Makes everything so much harder... I pray I can keep up!

Many blessings to everyone out there trying to get through this harvest season :-) 

Friday, May 22, 2015

The stubborn quest for food independence

Going into our fifth year on the farm.... we have come so far,,learned so much and always learning more.
our goal is to provide all our own food... to have a true subsistence farm....
seems impossible right?
now when I say , provide all our own food I mean all the food we 'need'!
Not coffee or chocolate! We don't need those things.... we 'like' them but certainly can survive without them along with many other things.

I mean provide a totally complete , nutritious diet ourselves.
like vegetables , fruits, grain, a fat/cooking oil source,, a b-12 source like eggs or meat... some might use milk for that category .... add in a sweetener like tapping trees for syrup or honey bees and what else is there?
Culinary, tea and medicinal herbs also make a great addition to a healthy diet and can easily be grown!
We are so close to our goal!
I've said before, me and my husband hit the ground running! Within a year we were providing all our own meats.... 60% of our own vegetables , all our own milk and eggs ( due to the extreme high input of dairy animals we no longer raise them for a b 12 source,,, plus I have very bad reactions if I eat to many dairy products)
We forage for wild blackberries and pears that first year and planted our own fruit crops.
I started an herb garden that first year too.
We now grow 100% of the vegetables we need.... the four season garden and much canning provide all we need....and a good variety too! I'm also growing an heirloom dent corn to provide us hopefully , with enough grain for the year.
We raise several kinds of poultry , and hogs for meats and oil/fat source... plus nutrient risk bone broths!
all we need raised here....
It has taken awhile to get our livestock profile 'right'! And I'm still tweaking my poultry types and breeds to see what stands out as the absolute best for our farm and resources....

One thing I really want to work toward now is feeding at least one group of our animals with food all foraged and grown here.
because you're not 'really' food independent if you spend a ton at the feed store to keep your livestock alive.. that's not sustainability...
no matter what the quarter acre homestead books tell you!!!

So far the geese,,, maybe the silkies also...might be the livestock that project will work best for.
I used to think possibly the ducks but they require alot of food provided by me and fairly low in fiber to lay well... they can survive on pasture,Woodlots and pond forage ,, our muscovies have before! But then their eggs taste fishy,,, yuck!
geese forage for algae and water plants in the pond but don't eat fish... so that's nice! Since we tend to have some grasses growing for the majority of the year ,, and geese are grazers (and sorta browsers) along with the ponds and my excess veggies ,,,well, they seem to be very self sufficiant here!
We are working on the farm providing all our fruits too.... which has been hard! Way Harder than the vegetables!
Of course we provide all our eggs.... but my silkies so far , are the only egg provider that can do so without feed store bought grains. The ducks get a mix of whole grains that I ferment plus they eat greens, seeds and bugs free ranging... 
Honey bees will hopefully provide our sweetner in the future,,, right now we buy local honey or I buy local sorghum ....
can't grow salt..we Need salt! Can not do without it.... the body needs it and in preserving our foods we need it!
But if it's only salt we have to buy to complete our diet... I can live with that!

It's been quite the journey .... and I do love to look back and see how far we've come,,, helps keep me going....the great victories and the extra horrible farm lows....
Yeah,,,,the lows on a farm are like none ive known!
ha, that could be a whole other post.... 'things that make me wanna quite farming' sort of a reality check post like I like to do sometimes ....especially when someone has tried to tell me about how wonderful my 'simple' life must be! Grrrrrrrrrr! Lol
But,,,, nah, I do love it so deep down in my soul...and I believe this land is where God led us.....and I'm somewhat stubborn ......and I've changed 'lifestyles' just enough to know there is nothing else for me while I'm here on this earth.,, and at lest for now there are more victories than defeats....
much much Praise to the Lord for that!
And a big thanks to my awesome encouraging husband :-) who's so good at keeping my crazy in check!

Have a blessed week y'all.

Upcoming Flock guardian litter! Lgd puppies!

So excited!!! Next week Freya is due to have her puppies!!!
These lgds have been specially chosen to work guarding poultry and waterfowl..
Not a job all lgds ever accomplish .. If fact most lgds fail the poultry /waterfowl test! 
Most lgds are also so untrainable they can't be taught basic manners.. This is unacceptable to me. I work closely with my dogs everyday.. Dogs that jump on me or run through gates.. Not happening here! I'm to busy to deal with drama from a dog that has a job to do!
 All our lgds are smart enough to learn basic manners... We even have some owners that have taught Freya and Sammy's pups more advanced obedience. 
Freya and Sammy's last litter of pups have been exceptional in whatever farm situation they have been put into...
We are Ofcourse always available to help with training for as long as the dog is living.
So if you need an awesome lgd feel free to email me with any questions.
I'm keeping 3 for myself :-)
But Freya had a very large litter last time.. 

Until next time... Be blessed!!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tis the season ... For EGGS!

We are rolling now! The girls are really working! I sold half my flock and I still have so many eggs!
it's a blessing,, we love eggs!
but it is a challenge coming up with new recipes ... now we are always up for deviled eggs... scrambled eggs and greens....a good quiche or savory egg pie , though I hate making crust (time consuming on these busy spring days)
 I like to get creative with eggs and our other farm ingredients  ... 
Here is our dinner Monday night... deviled duck eggs with fresh garden herbs,
crust less spring greens quiche... and crust less winter squash cheese cake....
I made all these dishes in 2 hours including cooking time ... which also fed us for lunch the next day... it would have actually fed us for dinner to ,, but my son came over!

As the gardens start producing more fresh veggies I get to be more creative with my bounty of eggs.

Homesteading is such a balancing act..
And you can grow all your own food (we do not 'need' the grocery store anymore)
But you have to sometimes decide what's most important to you for food and as always, what grows best for the natural resources you have and your climate. 

Enjoy spring!!! Hot summer is coming!!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The case for silkies on a working homestead

Now I know what you're thinking.... silkies on a working farm, ha!
I've heard the negatives about silkies too for a working farm or homestead... poor layers... bad foragers...
not enough meat to eat on them....delicate , not hardy ....not a chicken for a practical minded subsistence farm such as myself!
basically they are thought of as a novelty good for nothing but pet or show chicken....
My darlings,,,, how wrong i was.... and how wrong you are.....

The silkie chicken is the easiest chicken I've ever raised!
They have been such a joy to have for so many reasons....
They have not been delicate... they live in my barn with muscovy case you didn't know ducks are messy! As you can see below it has not a reflected badly on the health or beauty of my silkies....
they have been very low input and easy to raise! Even when our temperatures got down to 0 this winter,,, they were fine.
extremely economical to feed! Try the least expensive I've ever raised chickens!
As far as them being poor meat producers.....they are delicious.... honestly, this was the most delicious chicken I've ever ate in my life! Yes the skin is black...and yes it was good too! That one little roo fed me and my husband to our fill for dinner,
 then made a wonderful rich bone broth the next day.
the smaller size made processing a breeze, super easy to pluck. The meat to bone ratio was very good.
best part... well, next to the fact it was the best chicken i ever ate...
this meat cost me pennies... they eat so little. 
The hardest thing was the slaughter because they are such nice birds,,, but the roos weren't being nice to each other and someone was going to end up dead.
so it had to be done... and it was a blessing the meat was so amazing!

some say it is healthier than regular chicken... check out this link...
So what about being a bad forager... they forage plenty... all day,,, they just can't forage destructivly and scratch everything up! So they are perfect for areas you may prefer not end up being bare ground!
They don't wander far away, are easily contained away can't fly over my fences! 
Which means they are safer because they have to stay with my flock guardians.... and means I don't have to chase them down and clip their wings!
this saves me so much time.... an animal that is hard to manage can suck the day away from a busy farmer that has had her fair share of dealing with high input and hard to manage livestock,
I truly appreciate how easy these guys are to deal with... they are so calm...

as for eggs... 
my hens lay on sprouted grains and pasture, needing no fancy layer they are not heavy layers,
yes the egg is small... but it's cost me pennies to feed them. So I will take it!

they are supposed to be excellent mothers... I've not had a broody girl yet so I can't comment on that.
But I sure do look forward to the day they do!
I will be expanding my little flock ... they fit in here... 
Cause me no drama... take little of my money or time. Wonderful low input chicken... I didn't think there was such a thing ;-)
I tried them on a whim,, so glad I did! They have been a joy and and blessing

Friday, April 17, 2015

More new products ! And more new poultry!

Another spring rainy week!
Got lots of work done though !!
My husband and son put in many new raised garden beds, I mulched my new areas in the 'garden complex' got squash and some beans planted! 
All my green house seedlings are looking great!
And got some products ready to list in the farm store ...

I am especially in love with the whipped lip butter!!!
I have never used a better product on my lips! Should be in the store next week for sale.

And my poultry explosion continues!!! 10 pekins, 30 chicks last week and this week I got in 6 new ducklings and 10 goslings!!!!!!
I love geese... I think they are beautiful , graceful animals.. I love to see them graze the pasture.. Swim on the pond and play.., but After the Toulouse evilness I didn't know if I would have them again but they are such an excellent subsistence, low input animal...with fairly high out put! Great meat! Wonderful cooking fat, goose livers(yum ) the soft down & feathers,,, and eggs if I don't want them to hatch anymore goslings.
They are not my smallest animal on the farm but they are one of the cheapest to feed for me since my husband has improved our pastures. 
And Since I've had good experiences with the pilgrim geese and have got a better way to set them up when they go broody I decided to jump right in and get 6 embeds to raise for our family meat (I may keep a pair if I can sex them properly) and 4 Chinese to raise as main area geese. I have a cute little shed im going to paint for them and they will have access to a different pond than the pilgrims. 
I'm already in love with this brown Chinese gander baby :-)