Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wheat Harvest

Thanks to a former nutrition student of mine, Johnny and I decided to try growing wheat three years ago.  This summer's harvest came in early - in late May, ripening surprisingly quickly. 
We put wheat and/or field peas in as a cover crop on our acre crop field each fall.  We till this in early in the spring, leaving a small plot of wheat to ripen.  This plot is only about 18' x 180', so just over 3000 square feet.  The past two years this plot was about half wheat and half weeds, yielding a pickup truck load of wheat.  This year our plot was weed free, and we got 3 pickup truck loads!   We hoped to invite some folks out to help, but our hand sickles didn't arrive in time.  Luckily, we had some die-hard friends who had their own hand tools and showed up at our place at 7am to cut and bundle the wheat - many thanks to Russel, Terri, Dave, Stan and Amy!
We let Dave drive home with his truck full, and kept two pickup loads for ourselves.  This should provide enough wheat berries and thus flour to bake a loaf of bread twice per week. 
We thresh on a weekly, as-need basis.  This is the most time consuming part.  This year, with everyone's help, the harvest only took about 3 hours, but threshing and winnowing (to separate the wheat berries from the hull) takes a while.  We store the wheat on our screen porch, and grind it in small batches in a coffee grinder.  Dave has already made whole wheat biscuits for his family, and his daughters enjoyed them.  We were lucky to find this year's wheat resulted in a finer, lighter flour and is easier to thresh than other years.  Thanks farmers' coop!  We gain greater food sovereignty each year as we expand our farming operation, but I still find that wheat products are what I purchase at the grocery most often.  The favorite dish of the elders where I work of cornbread, beans, and greens with a side of buttermilk is starting to make a whole lot of sense to me.  This meal is nutritionally complete, consists of crops that are either easy to grow in drought and cold, or easy to preserve without refrigeration, and inexpensive if you did have to purchase these foods.  Fortunately, they are delicious too! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pasture Pastimes

Part of our livestyle entails limiting the entertainment that we purchase and instead creating our own fun.  To this end, Calvin and Johnny designed a 5-acre maze in the pasture.  Calvin was the primary designer, creating his plan on paper.  He and Johnny staked out key points in the pasture, and Johnny created the maze with Helen, our riding lawn-mower.  This Friday we host our annual homeschool end-of-year party, and will invite all 19 kiddos to partake in getting lost in the weeds.  After this Friday, Johnny will quit mowing this and appreciate adding that extra hour back to his regular farm work.   

A couple of times each week I walk my goats.  This gets the goaties out of their enclosure and allows them access to much more varied forages.  Plus I get a kick our of leading them around.  They know all the sweet spots rich in clover or lespodeza or acorns in the fall.  And they get to actually browse as goats prefer to do. 

The latest addition to our home entertainment system is a donkey.  I have long yearned for a ridable donkey, and this weekend serendipitously made my dream a reality.  A fellow vendor at the farmers' market had been trying to find a new home for this young man for some time (thank you Cara!).  He is broke to ride and was used as a pack animal in the recent past.  He is very affectionate, tame, and snuggly.  Johnny is off to town today to get a halter, a bridle, and hopefully a bareback pad.  He came with the dignified name of Atticus.  He seems especially fond of Calvin, so we'll soon be fighting for turns to ride Atticus to the mailbox and to check on blackberries and the like. 
Speaking of which, now is the time to go blackberry hunting.  I've already made 16 pints of jam, a cobbler, froze over a gallon, etc.  While many are still red, there are pockets of huge, sweet, ripe ones. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More edible flowers

Each spring I anticipate the redbuds, and envy the trees in town the blossom before ours up in Rose.  I gather the purple flowers and add them to apple-carrot-raisin salad, stir-fries and more.  This year our dear friend David Gahn insisted we smell the wonderful locust blossoms on his trees.  Not only do they smell fantastic, but he informed us they are also edible.  I tried to imagine what would best capture their fragrance, and came up with locust blossom fritters.  They are simple and a great vehicle for these sweet, delicate, albeit transient treats.
 To 4 cups of locust flowers, add 2Tbsp flour and 2-3 egg yolks.  Next, beat egg whites (2-3) with 1-2 Tbps. sugar (optional) until stiff peaks form.  Fold this into the blossom mixture.  Then just cook like pancakes.  Enjoy immediately.  They are great plain, but even better topped with a little local honey. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Here we go again!

I just said to Johnny the other night that while I don't feel particularly idle in the winter, I suddenly feel like 'here we go again'.  Our (tiny) dairy goat herd doubled in about 10 days.  Our seasoned Sanaan mamma delivered three babies, two of which were born alive and are doing well.  And our two first-time Oberhausli mommas each had relatively easy births.  Calvin and I spent an hour one afternoon watching Sorrel deliver her baby and witnessing his first steps just 17 minutes after entering the world.  Amazing!  The farm has taken on such a lively atmosphere with the four babies frolicking about all the time. 
And Johnny and Calvin have been busy mowing and then tilling in cover crops and planting seed for spring crops.  Our broccoli and cabbage seedlings are in the ground, along with green onions, carrots, lettuce, chard, kale,  spinach, and more.  
Johnny on his home-made row-maker!

Wildflowers are blooming!  The chickweed is in full bloom and is on its way out, but we have buttercup, trout lily, spring beauty, yellow corydalis, and many varieties of violets, including some edible ones!  The elms are seeding, and I finally figured out which are the Slippery Elm trees.  I gathered bark for decotions/teas.  
Notice the hairless seeds of Slippery Elm
Even the return of the ticks can't get me down this time of year!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crowder Pea Hummus

The winter before last, our tractor "died" before we could till in our cover crop, so our field peas made peas instead of packing all of that good nitrogen into the soil.  But you know what they say; when life feeds you lemons, make lemonade.  In this case, I've been finding new ways to prepare crowder peas.  And after the drought of last summer, I have a new appreciation and respect for crowder peas.  All over our crop field, even where we don't irrigate (and our corn shriveled up and died), crowder peas grew, bloomed, and made peas. 
I have eaten more beef since moving to Oklahoma and raising our own cattle than at any other time in my life, but I still love vegetarian dishes.  I have learned to make hummus from all sorts of lovely legumes, and crowder peas are any easy hit:
Soak crowder peas (a double handful - 1-1.5 cups) in at least that much water, overnight.
The next day, drain and rinse the peas.  Match the volume of peas with salted water and cook about 45 minutes.  Add desired seasonings (bay leaf, thyme, oregano, pepper, cumin, etc.)
 Drain peas and add to blender with hummus ingredients: 2 Tbsp. tahini paste and/or toasted seasame oil, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, cumin, and any other seasonings you like.  You could add some pesto or cilantro.  Parsley is not too strong in flavor, and is refreshing.  I almost always add fresh raw or dried granulated garlic.  Blend, adding liquid to desired consistency (water, vegetable broth, lemon juice - not too much, oil, etc.). 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Warm Winter Rumblings

This has been an unseasonably warm and thus fruitful winter for us.  We are still harvesting beets, carrots, and many greens.  We butchered one of our steers, which took two entire days, and a third pair of adult hands (thanks, Cagney!).  Karen extracted the tongue and marinated it in a brine, and later made slided sandwich meat - yummy!  Johnny built a frame so we could stretch and tan the hide.  We spent Christmas trampoline jumping on the skin.  And we are celebrating that we are officially organic now with the Oklahoma Dept. of Ag, Food & Forestry!  And our first farm workshop will be coming up at the end of March. 

Johnny has been busy building raised beds in our personal garden.  Our dairy goats are busy growing babies.  And Karen is expanding her list of things to cook from the farm, which include: beef, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, and some frozen and canned ingredients: bell peppers, broccoli, snow peas, tomatoes, tomato-basil sauce, dehydrated green beans (these are awesome), and pear pie filling. 

In addition to endless stew concoctions (including a Moroccan stew inspired by "Girl Hunter"), there is the obvious spaghetti, chili, burgers and baked sweet potatoes, but other goodies like Potato-Carrot-Root Soup with baked wheat rolls, and "Snoopy Wellington", which has beef, potatoes, carrots, and greens wrapped in puff pastry and baked - YUM! 
When time and internet access allows, I'll add recipes.  Until then... The Barefoot Farmers