Category Archives: Homesteading

Late Spring Garden update

It seems to me that Spring around here is not going to be a Spring as we know it. It had been rainy and cold and overnight it went to Hot & Humid with black flies and mosquitoes.

We are enjoying our first spring radish and baby spinach leaves from the garden. I never did get the early Broccoli to sprout and I planted seed twice. I started the summer garden over the weekend. I would go out and plant a bit then come into the house out of the hot sun. So far I have an entire bed of carrots, half a bed of bush beans for our first planting, a second will go in when the bed of radish is gone. The other half is broccoli. There are more beds to be planted in the Kitchen Garden and the Tomatoes need to be put into the gardens by the barn.

I have in my notes from our food use over the winter that I could have used more carrots…for soup and there were a few hints left that the carrot relish was missed. So I planted more this year. Last fall I made corn relish and never did get the carrot relish made, so the corn I canned was hit hard and we only have around 12 jars left for our summer cookout season. We gave out quite a bit over the holiday season and we have enjoyed it on the dinner table all winter long.

one of the new chicks-a Black Sexlink

The herb bed is struggling, the chickens have dug it up three times now! That only lasted for a couple of days and now they aren’t going near it. Hope it was because there were tasty bugs in there they wanted and now they are all gone. Needless to say I had to go out and buy starts of herbs if we were to have any this season. Its to late to start from seed now. I think I did okay with this, I checked each pot and counted the number of plants in each. Some had only 2 plants and some had 4 in the same pot. Guess you know which I brought home with me. This is a good example of taking the time to look them all over to get the best value for the money being spent. Some  were in 6 packs and only had 4 plants with 2 of the cells empty. I couldn’t help myself and had to point this out to a woman who just grabbed the first one her hand landed on, it happened to be one I had rejected…

I missed the spring violets this year for making jelly. It was raining and the blooms all turned to mush then as some new were opening Dick decided to take advantage of the dry weather and started the lawn mower…there went the violets and the first good bloom of dandelions… To make up for this I will have to double up on the berry jams this summer or over the winter make jelly from bottled juice.

Today will be laundry day and I hope to get the shelter and pen up for the turkey chicks that will be here in a couple of weeks.



7 Months of Eating Well from our Pantry-The animals eat too…

I haven’t mentioned in a while about feeding the animals around here. The Dalton the dog, Dudley the house cat, and the barn cats eat the homemade food I prepare for them weekly. The process is simple and only takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. Sort of my version on Stone Soup for them. Do any of you remember that children’s book?

I pull out a rather large stock pot and start adding things to it. I take a look in the fridge to see if there is any left over meat, if not I will use about 1 pound of beef, chicken or turkey from the freezer. Next I add any left over veggies that I want to clean up, if not I check the freezer because there are bags in there just for them. I also save and freeze things like potato, carrot peels and other trimmings from preparing our meals and into the pot they go. This is where I add the water from boiling veggies I saved too.

Next I add several types of rice, oh’ I don’t know, about 1 cup. I sometimes use barley, oats, what ever I have around and into the pot it goes. NEVER BEANS! Fill the pot with water and boil until the rice is just about done, then I add a few hand fulls of pasta, what ever is close at hand. I add a couple of  Tablespoons of flax seed oil or sunflower oil and a couple of bullion cubes or any saved gravy. This will cook until everything is done and let it sit to cool before putting it into the fridge. This would freeze well if I wanted to make a larger batch.

Food from the garden being processed to feed our pets

This is good wholesome food, I’m not talking about feeding them the bad, spoiled left overs, those go to the compost. The veggies I saved are good but not perfect. The green beans had a bit of the discoloring they will get if you touch them wet while they are growing. The nutritional value is there, I use those for soup stock too.

The carrots that were too little or badly misshapen were washed well, cut, blanched and frozen. I am almost positive these are in better shape than what is going into commercial food being prepared for human consumption, never mind pet food.

This week’s meals was a combination of baked ham, grilled steak, zucchini, green beans, beet tops, carrot peals and tops, wild rice, long grain rice, barley, a bit of whole wheat macaroni, sunflower oil and 2 beef bullion cubes.

I can honestly say that feeding them like this saves us money. Most weeks there is enough leftover meat and the freezer has plenty of less than perfect veggies we grew this summer and saved for them. If we should run low there are packages of meat scraps I picked up from our local butcher that cost us almost nothing. A 20 pound box of beef scraps was $6.00. You know from these scraps I was also able to cut several pounds of very nice stew beef for our use.

We also have several pounds of venison a friend was cleaning out of his freezer to make room for the new deer this year. Now in most cases I would NOT feed deer meat to a dog! But our’s is always on his run when he is outside and his chances of ever going out hunting is very slim. He earns his keep by being cute I guess, and he is good at letting us know when someone is here or something isn’t just right.

Another great benefit is I don’t have to lug huge bags of dry pet food around. I don’t have the plastic bags it came in to do something with and that makes us happy to cut down on unneeded garbage to recycle. An 18 pound bag of commercial dog food costs around $18.-$23. these days. If you follow the feeding directions on the package that bag would last the dog just about a week. WOW!

Even if you don’t have room for a garden or freezer space, a trip weekly to the grocery store for fresh ingredients will still help you save time, money and your back.

 I certainly feel better knowing what they are eating, that it greatly lessens the chances of them becoming sick. How many times recently have I heard about pet food being recalled? To many for my liking. Store bought pet food is a fairly new invention made for our new fast paced life and a very profitable way for the meat processors to get rid of their by-products that would otherwise go to waste. In our Grandparent’s time store bought pet food was unheard of and I can pretty much bet they would not have parted with their hard earned money to buy it. Grain and hay for the animals yes, but to feed a cat or dog, no way on earth. The ads on TV and even from your vet about having to feed your pets commercial food for nutritional reasons is a marketing scheme to get you to part with your hard earned money while you feed your pets garbage. Wild dogs and cats are opportunists and will eat what ever they can find just like any other animal and have always done so.

I also have notice that they void much less than other dogs and cats who are fed commercial foods. Their food is actually being used by their bodies. That being said this is the reason why they are able to eat less. Dalton is a mutant Beagle (no not really, but he was bought as a 12″ Beagle and I think there is some blood hound in him that makes him larger than normal Beagles) he weights around 60 pounds and eats 1/2 cup of his food twice a day. Dudley is a small sized cat and I feed him about the same when he has had enough Dalton is all to happy to help him with the rest he didn’t eat. They will also eat scraps of toast, leftover oatmeal or other goodies we might have left after a meal.

Dalton & Dudley sharing a homemade meal together

Did it take up more garden space? No not really, these veggies would have gone to the compost bin. True these carrots were perfectly good for us to eat, and my up-bringing tells me to shredded them for baking or relish or even served them in less than perfect shape. But we had plenty that were prettier. If not a row or two can be squeezed in to feed the animals.

 True I had to purchase a bit more meat but that is the cost of keeping an animal. True it takes up valuable freezer space but there are other alternatives to freezing their food. Next year I might can jars of pet food instead of storing everything in the freezer and making a week’s worth at a time.  The other thing I could have done is dehydrate the veggies. Dehydrated food doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen. I have plenty of time to work this out over the winter.

So with the veggies and meat safely frozen in the freezer I feel good that there is enough to feed them from our pantry over the winter. It took very little planning and a bit more time but not much. I was chopping, and blanching veggies any way so a batch or two for the pets was not a big deal.

Rose Hip Syrup

It’s confession time….I’m not a Maple Syrup fan. I know, I know I live in New England and the stuff is a huge part of our heritage and income for some.

With winter coming on I have heard the requests for pancakes and waffles and I know it will continue. Here comes another confession… I’m not a huge pancake fan either but with plenty of butter and either Dandelion or Rose Hip syrup they aren’t to bad. Now let me tell ya’ I have never met a waffle I didn’t like.

All summer I have been watching a hedge row of wild Rugosa Roses on my way to work. The past few weeks the bushes looked like decorated mini trees. So full of bright red and orange rose hips. The past several nights we have had some good hard frosts and that tells me the time is right to pick. So the other day Daisy and I gathered up a pail, cutters and our leather work gloves and off we went.

A quick 45 minutes later we were on our way back home with our treasures. I’m not sure if everyone makes hip syrup this way or not, but it’s the way I was taught from my Grandmother.

First you need a good size bucket of hips and a nice cup of tea then sit down to remove the blossom end, stems and any that aren’t just perfect. Wash them well under warm running water.

Next is the fun part, chop them. A food processor works for this but I don’t own one. I used my antique Universal Food Grinder. There aren’t lots of electric kitchen gadgets around our kitchen. I like the old elbow-grease kind and you can hand me a wooden spoon any old time and I’m happy.

Getting ready to turn the stove on for simmering the rose hips. Daisy wanted to be sure everything was exactly right.

Put the hips into a large pot and cover them with water plus about an inch. Bring these to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes gently.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool so they are safe to handle without getting burnt.  Pour everything into a jelly bag and allow to drain overnight into another container.  If you are in a hurry you could also just squeeze out the bag very well to get the juice to extract from the pulp. This is sort of an important step, you don’t want any of the seeds or those pesky rose hip hairs in your syrup. If you use cheese cloth to strain your pulp you might need to strain the juice again. Take my word for it those hairs are not pleasant when you are trying to enjoy the syrup. This dripping juice to me looks a lot like tomato soup and is a nice color. It will clear up once the sugar is added and it cooks down.

The next day reheat this juice until boiling gently and add sugar. Enough so the juice is saturated with the sugar. I had about 6 cups of juice so I used 6 cups of sugar. Allow this to boil gently and stir constantly for 5-10 minutes. It will reduce and thicken a little more.

Pour into sterile jars leaving 1/2″ head space, adjust lids and process in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove from canner and allow to cool on a clean towel. Wipe down the jars and label. I added the PDF file for the jar labels HERE if you would like to use them.

I used small jars because this syrup will only last a couple of weeks in the fridge before going bad. There is just enough in these jars for Daisy and I to use up at a single breakfast. I had been on the hunt (locally) for jars a bit prettier and something with a pour spout with no luck. Why is it the (new) Ball jars are so….I don’t know….unattractive and lack personality? They don’t even feel nice when you hold them. The old bail top Ball jars have so much character and so many of the other (non-US brands) are so pleasant to look at. All of my old bail top jars are currently full. Why can’t our’s be that way too…. The Weck jars are still on my wish list. I think this project would have been perfect for the smallest Juice Jars. We could have used what we wanted on our pancakes or waffles and made a nice juice drink with the rest. This syrup is pretty tasty for juice too… Oh’ well there is always next time.

 I took the pulp from the jelly bag and fed it to the chickens. They ate everything except the seeds. Guess they didn’t like them. If you don’t have chickens the compost pile would be a good place to toss this stuff.

A Day Off

On my way to work. This doesn't make it all so bad.

Sugar Maples on my way to work. This doesn't make it all so bad.

I’m home today from work to take care of a few things around here. It’s been a long hard stretch of work the past couple of weeks. Seems there is a run on the elderly in our community having surgery. The phone has been ringing off the hook and I have been putting in 12 hour days.

Thankfully Son #1 and his girlfriend have really stepped up and have been a life saver around here. They both jumped right in and took care of what ever needed to be done or a request a frantic phone call from me brought. Everything from trips to school, grocery shopping (Huge lists), caring for the animals, cooking, cleaning and laundry.

Mark has a good solid knowledge of how things are done around here and his girlfriend is enjoying learning all about farm life. She is smart and learned quickly not to wait for someone to tell you what to do. See something that needs to be done-just do it. Her homemaking skills are increasing and she wants to know more. I am blessed to have them both!

This clutter of a day in progress was all gone when I got home with the projects completed and put away neatly. Now I just want to know what Dalton is looking at…the horse running loose down the driveway again? That’s another funny story of a  new farmgirl who is not to sure about horses and her adventure to catch one running away, because it pulled shenanigans and escaped from the barn while she tried to put it in for the night.

Look at the kitchen table full of projects in progress!-canning, herbs ready to dry, school work, coupons, yeah!

I am in the process of taking on a part time job at our local county nursing home. This is a long slow process with criminal back ground checks, long lists of references and several interviews to go through. It’s a part time job and the hours will fit in nicely with my private care clients I currently care for.

Returning to work full time plus some was not on my list of goals by any means but it has come at a good time for our family and I am thankful for the opportunities it has brought to us.

A nice basket of Thyme ready for drying
A nice basket of Thyme ready for drying-work continues even when I’m not here

Our Leghorn rooster is headed to a new farm this weekend. I love the big guy and he is sweet as far as roosters go. BUT the girls don’t like him and chase and pick at him non stop. One day he escaped the pen I put up for him and he was a bloody mess when I found him. Apart from the cuteness factor I have no use for him, he is not the breed of birds I want here so I don’t want him for breeding. I could put him into the freezer but honestly the mess of processing a single bird isn’t all that exciting to me. So off he will go and I hope his new girls will treat him better.

New canning jars-now full of pizza sauce

Carrots are on sale this week ($1.99 for 5 pounds) so I brought home 35 pounds of them. I will make a batch or two of carrot relish and the rest will go into the freezer. They are on my pantry stock up list for our 7 month no shopping time. I’ll get an update on that posted soon, time is drawing near for that to start. I’m making progress but not there just yet filling up the pantry.

I have a special order of soap to get out and I will sort through the soap draws to get ready for a craft fair I have coming up. Speaking of soap I am going to give a new site a try. It is on the line of Etsy but it’s just for us farmgirls. I’m very excited about it, with a wonderful country feel to it. There will be places to read about the farms and the people who run them. Its called Farm Girl Products USA. It is expected to be up and running by the end of the month. I will let you know.

Taken from the Farm Girl Products USA front page:

This is a place where a Farmgirl shines and is recognized for her many talents. It is plain to see she is smart, creative, determined and fun. She lacks nothing…but more time! Our Great Nation was built on the backs of small farms from sea to shining sea.

The Farmgirl is at the heart of it all and no one can deny her this. She learns from generations past how to be self sufficient. Her work goes according to the rhythm of the seasons and she is proud of it. Her homestead might be 500 acres of rolling wheat fields or a backyard garden in the middle of town…but she remains true to her kindred spirit. Her heart tells her that beauty is in rainbows, mountains, woolly lambs, fresh strawberries on ice cream and the crisp clean feel of sun dried sheets.

These places and things represent the simple life…and she invites you to join her there. Farmgirl Products USA strives for a bright future where we can all bring our neighbor a piece of apple pie and sit to talk awhile.

I also want to quickly mention that I am still paying the shipping for any soap order from our Country Farm Store or our Etsy Shop. Several of our readers have taken advantage of this.

Lastly I will spend the day with Daisy. She is home from pre-school feeling under the weather. It’s cold this morning, the sun is out and the trees are glowing with their fall color. A perfect time for a nice walk.

Hope you have a wonderful day.

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