Sunday, August 26, 2018

Late August

Since coming home from our vacation, and finding that Michael kept the garden in peak condition, we continued preserving the harvest.  Prior to leaving in late July, we put up frozen green beans, broccoli; purchased local peaches and blueberries; and more.  We canned bread & butter pickles, garlic-mustard zucchini pickles, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, chopped tomatoes, dilly beans, and more.

These past two weeks, we canned chipotle salsa, BBQ sauce, elderberry syrup for the flu (and sample last year's wine to see if we want to make more - yes!).  I made one quart of elderberry elixir.  Instead of making syrup (1 part berries, 2 parts water - simmer 40 minutes, strain, add 1/2 part honey, and can for 10 minutes), I put 2 cups berries in a quart jar.  Fill 2/3 with rum and 1/3 with honey.  Also add cinnamon and grated lemon peel.  Keep in dark 6 weeks, strain.  Berries are never heated.  My herbalist idol, Jenny Mansell, recommended an elixir instead of syrup.  I tried this last year and really liked it.  

We also harvested a bumper crop of carrots and grated about 60 to dehydrate in our solar dryer.  We made dilly carrot pickles (a first), some carrot-ginger-apple juice to reward our hard work, and an experiment we may not sample: lacto-fermented carrot juice.  Kinda scary, but intriguing.  We also put about 40 in the fridge and the rest in the root cellar.

In the meantime, we've been making more bread, inspired by our trip to Europe, and enjoying farm-meals.  Johnny brush hogged the crop field in preparation for planting winter wheat and winter peas as a cover crop and winter forage for the goats.  Today we butchered two goat bucklings born in April, who were starting to attempt to breed with their mama.  I cooked Keema last weekend with ground goat, and loved it.  We also enjoyed some delicious goat ribs in Romania, thanks to Robyn, and saved the ribs in hopes of replicating.  

I say this all the time, but I'll try for monthly updates.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Farm to Table

Enjoying a nearly 100% farm-raised meal: BBQ chicken (yard bird and canned BBQ sauce), cucumbers in a goat-yogurt-dill sauce, sautéed new potatoes and last fall's sweet potatoes with home-made ketchup, fried summer squash, and sautéed mixed veggies.  Only the salt, flour, and beer for the squash batter were store-bought.

Come to our August workshop to learn more about food preservation hands-on!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Primitive Skills Weekend

This past weekend was such a treat.  Our workshop was supposed to start at 9am, but by 9:30 my family and our fellow instructors were still huddled in the house looking at the downpour and pouting thinking no one was going to show up.  But in the next 5 minutes three vehicles came, and they kept coming! 

We had a great start to the weekend with our good friend Dave Gahn, who led an inspiring introduction to bird language followed by a chill 35 minute individual bird sit, in which we got to watch the birds return to baseline, our their status quo.  The alarm calls quieted, and hopefully so did our minds. 

After a potluck lunch, we got down to fire building.  We all failed at the one-match fire, but everyone who stuck it out with either the bow-drill or the flint-and-steel got a coal!  We even lit our dinner's campfire with a coal made from the bow-drill. 

Some of us cooled off in our "pool" and then helped harvest the evening's supper from our garden.  We had a salad of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and cauliflower; a stew from new potatoes, last year's sweet potatoes, carrots, some of our pastured pork, and garden herbs.  We also grilled pork back strap and zucchini.  This complimented James' coconut curried chicken that he was kind enough to share.  Yum!!

We sat around the fire for a few in the unseasonably cool evening before crashing for the night in our tents.  We awoke to a light rain that increased as we ate breakfast huddled under the pavilion.  But luck was on our side for once, as it quit raining in time for us to practice archery.  Michael brought a huge assortment of traditional bows for us to use, and also taught us how to throw with an atlatl. 

We took an ethnobotanical stroll before a late lunch.  We tried different local plants and trees to make cordage (i.e. string - or an anklet) and also learned a few edible and medicinal wild plants. 

A big shout-out of thanks to everyone who came and made this such a successful weekend!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Scouting wild edible and medicinal plants

We've been walking around the property a lot recently to scout which plants are up and might be of interest to folks who attend our plants workshop in mid-April.  We found all of these yesterday!  And in looking for morrels while walking, we found an interesting mushroom specimen.  I think of chicken-of-the-woods (aka sulfer bracket or "wishi") as a fall fungus.  It turns out that this paler sub-species, Laetiporus Cincinnatus, known as "pale chicken of the woods" is also edible when cooked, like the true sulfer bracket, or  Laetiporus sulphureusBonus!

checking on the health of the creek before harvesting watercress.  Found cadys fly larvae - yay!

A farm meal all from what we harvested or wildcrafted!  Fried white and sweet potatoes, salsa, scrambled eggs, cilantro, wild greens, and goat-mozzarella.  That's what I'm talkin' about :)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The first step in making farmstead soap

The first step in making farmstead soap - is getting a beef kidney.

According to my homesteading books, kidney fat is the best both for eating and soap making.  Last year, when we brought a few of our steers to the processor, we asked him to save some fat for us so we could make soap.  Also knowing about the superiority of kidney fat, he saved us two kidneys.  Here I am removing the kidney and then rendering the fat to make pure beef tallow.

To render the fat, cook it over a LOW heat.  This can be accomplished in a pan in the oven on a low temperature, on the stove or the back of a wood stove (maybe elevated on a spare gas-stove burner grate or two to keep the heat lower), or as I did in a crock pot.   A crock pot uses electricity, but guarantees a consistent low temperature, which allowed me to sleep through the rendering of the first kidney.  Cook the fat until either all the solid tissue-y parts float, or test it with a thermometer.  For lard, you don't want the fat to get over 255 degrees.  I haven't found a temperature for knowing when beef tallow is done.  The fat from one kidney was just at 260 when I awoke this morning, and dried a perfect white, so it seems fine. 

Stay tuned for adventures in soap making :)

The finished product!