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!

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!