Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years News

Happy New Year everyone!

I'm happy to admit at last that I'm pregnant, due in June. That's why I haven't been posting very much at all this past fall/winter season, as I've been barely managing to feed my family, keep my own food down, and make sure everyone has relatively clean clothes to wear. Cleaning and most other weekly and daily activities have been put to the wayside, as has regular posting, commenting, and responding to comments! My apologies, but growing a small human in those first couple months is hard on me!

Also, besides the not-having-much-to-talk-about that comes from not doing a heck of a lot other than laying on the couch, have you ever found that when there is a huge secret that you aren't sharing yet, you just can't find much to talk about? Yeah, that's me. Can't find much to talk about even if it kills me when I've got a secret that I'm dying to share but just not quite there yet!

So, now that you know, we can move on to other things!

I'm excited to share the latest project we've got going on over here, a play kitchen for Little M's third birthday! I'm not quite as far along making it as I would have liked, although I've got all or almost all off the pieces cut and sanded. However, since her birthday is this coming weekend, complete with a sledding party with some of her little friends, I have a bit of work ahead of me to get it assembled and prettied up...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Falling off to sleep dreaming of garden plans

Last night I was awake for a bit in the middle of the night, and as I drifted off to sleep I realized that I was planning out where the corn and tomatoes would go in the garden next year. I then realized how strange it was that I was thinking of the garden instead of planning out Christmas presents or events, and how it was strange to be thinking of next years garden when this past years garden is barely even covered with snow... But that's where I was at apparently!

I've received a few seed catalogs in the mail, and have leafed through them although I haven't yet started marking anything, or started a list of the seeds I will need for next years garden. I know we want to add Arugula. And I'd love to increase our garden space by putting up a new fence by Little M's playstructure, although that likely won't happen in the spring and will likely be a project for the following year. I am looking forward to starting the garden planning come the new year though, something fun and green to make the snowy cold days of January and February sail along faster.

Hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season and savoring the slowing down that winter brings.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shelling dried green beans

Over a month ago, right before our first hard frost of the fall, we pulled all of the bean plants from the garden, and hung them up on the clotheslines on the sunporch to finish drying. The majority of the plants were our dry beans, both dragon tongue and kenearly yellow eye. But some of the plants were green bean plants with mature-looking green beans on them. We dried them to save the beans for planting next year.

The dry beans I dealt with pretty quickly, as the clotheslines full of drying bean plants were seriously impairing our view of the fields from the living room. As far as the dry beans go, the kenearly yellow eye were very easy to shell, and most had actually fully dried outside on the plant before our first frost, so I prefer growing them, but they didn't have anywhere near the yield as the dragon tongue. However the dragon tongue were such a pain to dry and harvest, as they not only molded on the sunporch but got covered in spider mites & their webbing, that I think I might be looking for a shorter season dry bean to add to the kenearly yellow eye next summer.

The green bean plants were a little out of the way where they were hung, and there weren't as many of them, so they've been ignored for the most part, although my husband has mentioned dealing with them himself a couple times, if I didn't hurry up and clean them up. Of course, him 'dealing' with them would be just tossing them out to the chickens, beans and all, so I have been assuring him I would be dealing with them 'soon'.

Well this weekend 'soon' came, and Little M and I pulled the very dry beans off the plants, and then shelled them. There were 2 different types of beans that we grew this past summer - blue lake bush and kentucky wonder bush. The blue lake bush seems to have done better, but it was hard to tell this year as the plants were in mixed rows due to poor germination. I'll plant both again this coming summer and try to keep track of which does better here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Snowfall!

We've gotten our first snowfall that makes it feel like winter is here to stay, and so I finally feel like I have something to blog about! I love waking up to the house looking so bright and white from all the snow outside the windows covering all the trees and grasses. With the woodstove burning bright and the only other light coming in from the windows, the house just feels like it's already christmas, even though there aren't any decorations up yet at all :)






The world feels still and calm and pure. I don't know if I could live in a place that never got snow. Even the amount we get here in a normal winter isn't quite enough for me. I just love snow and all that winter means!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Well hello there!

When I wrote my last post (ahem) 2 weeks ago or thereabouts, and included 'slowing down for winter' in the title, I really didn't anticipate slowing down quite this much on the blogging front... But, life happens, and here it is 2 weeks later! Nothing really to report on the home front, it's been cold, and wet, and wet, and cold. And we haven't really been doing all that much at all!

Luckily the forecast is finally looking a bit more promising on the white stuff front, and hopefully soon we will be sitting cozy under our winter blanket of snow. This in between time is hard for me, all the outside chores that could be done now but could wait until spring, the damp cold, the dreary days. Snow makes everything just so much cheerier in my books.

In the meantime, I'll try and get in as many hours of work as I can manage (the office has really gotten slow in the past month, I've been lucky to get 3 billable hours a day lately, which hurts the budget (aka mortgage payoff) just a wee bit). We've been managing to stay pretty much on top of the housework, Little M and I, although the length of the house is spread with the lego's, toys, and blankets that almost 3 year old productivity entails!

Well, that's likely it for updates, hopefully it won't be quite so long until my next post here, and even more hopefully the next one will include glorious snow pictures! (we'll see - fingers crossed!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

First snowflakes & slowing down for winter

This morning I saw the first of the season's snowflakes falling gently by the windows. While the cooler temperatures over the past week have been slowing me down, making me huddle inside, the first snow always invigorates me. I can't wait for true winter, when the cold temperatures can be ignored because of all of the beauty the snowy landscape creates.

I doubt we will get snow that stays for weeks if not longer, but I'm looking forward to the slower pace that our lives takes after the busyness that is fall. Once the garden is harvested and put to sleep until spring. Once hunting season is over as lakes start to freeze (ps, I didn't get my deer, in fact we didn't even go out deer hunting again after my post last week, although we kept a sharp eye on the fields around the house). Once the roads get icy or closed for the season. Once the snow gets deep and walking around becomes significantly more effort.

Time for enjoying hot chocolate, lots of good books, fires in the woodstove, birds at the feeder, sledding & snowshoeing, and lots of shoveling!

What about you - are you looking forward to slowing down for the winter?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Deer Hunting

This year my husband managed to get his deer on opening morning, which at the time I thought was just great! However, what it has meant is that the whole rest of the week of hunting season he could focus on getting me into situations where I could try to shoot my deer. Sigh. I haven't gotten one yet, although I had a shot at one earlier in the week (I missed) and we saw a couple more legal bucks moving just onto private property last night.

At this point, we've still got one or two opportunities to try to get me one, fitted around work and duck hunting commitments before the season ends on Sunday, but I'm feeling pretty worn out right now so I'm not sure how much more hiking around I can take! Add in dragging the deer back home or to the vehicle, and the processing of the meat, and I'm starting to doubt my ability to make it through what shooting one would entail! Of course, getting my first deer (ever) would be a big deal, so I'll keep trying I'm sure :)

Also, we typically run out of deer meat before the following hunting season, so realistically we need meat from more than one deer to supply our red meat needs. We'll see what tonight & the weekend brings, and I'll let you know how it turns out!

Friday, October 12, 2012

First freeze

After we pulled all our last veggies from the garden in the afternoon early last week, we went back out after supper and mulched around the overwintering plants to make them hardy enough to hopefully last until spring.
the mulched herb bed in front, strawberries behind

lone sunflower at the garden's edge
the one kale that wasn't hidden by the tomatoes grew huge, likewise the marigolds behind it
common chives peeking out of their mulch covering
garlic chive seed heads
The next morning, it was obvious we had a hard frost from the ice formed under the sprinklers in the alfalfa field next door. We still aren't sure what the farmer is thinking leaving his sprinklers on so late, but we really aren't surprised at his latest level of seemingly inept farming, and heck, maybe, just maybe, he knows something we don't about irrigating alfalfa into the late fall. And either way, it makes for some good stories, and interesting ice pictures!



Monday, October 8, 2012

Pickle Making

I managed to grow enough cucumbers for 3 small batches of refrigerator pickles this summer. The first time I'd ever made any sort of pickles in fact! I followed this recipe, by Marisa of Food in Jars, and was amazed at how simple the process was. slice the cuc's, stuff them in jars on top of some spices, meanwhile boiling some vinegar & water & salt, then pour the boiling water mixture over the pickles, seal the jars up, and place in the fridge when they've cooled. An involved process, sure, but not a time consuming one!


They turned out delicious - even for a family of 3 that isn't all that into pickles we managed to eat our way through 2 batches basically unassisted. The third batch, still in the fridge, was requested by my husband's family, so we're taking them along with us this week to Duck Camp. As long as our cucumbers grow in future years as good as they did this year, I can see us making pickles every summer. Yum!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sunflower Harvesting

We're forecast to get our first frost tonight, actually it's looking to be our first freeze as well. This morning we were out doing a bit of harvesting, and this evening we will be doing a whole lot more. Its is rare for us to not have a frost until early October, but I haven't been complaining! It's been a novelty to have the tomatoes ripening on the plants, instead of on our counters, and I'm sure our dry bean harvest will be the best yet.

The start of our harvest was the sunflowers. This was the second wheelbarrow-full we cut off and brought up to the house, to fully dry on the sunporch before being stored for later separating of seed from seed-head. Some of these will be dried and given to the chickens throughout the fall and winter as tasty treats, and some will get planted back out in the spring.


We've had one section of the bottom field planted in sunflowers since we moved in, and are currently working on getting more and more growing down there, in the hopes that at some point we can have that contribute substantially to the chicken's feed. We'll see whether we actually have enough space (or few enough laying hens!) for that to be realistic. But every little bit helps, and plus, the field of sunflowers is just the most beautiful thing to see!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Buying Groceries with Cash

We attended Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at our good friend's church over the summer, and while watching the videos and doing the class homework definitely provoked changes in some of our opinions about money, the really great thing about taking the class was the group discussions. We took the class with just a small group of people (not surprising given the remote location where we live, and the church where we are taking the class is 45 minutes away even for us). Attending were us, our friends, another couple, and the couple that run the church (who are our friends parents/in-laws). Apart from the couple that run the church who are obviously older, us and the other 2 couples each have kids that are around two and a half years old - 2 girls and one boy. So we were about in the same life-stage, although one couple is a bit older than us and one couple is a bit younger than us.

We've been keeping track of our spending since before we married, and have been using a zero-based budget loosely based on Dave Ramsey teachings since shortly after we married, so we've slowly learned a lot about money and about behavior around money, so we didn't have huge steps to take during the class since we already had an emergency fund and were already using a zero based budget, but we still let ourselves get as much new information from the class as possible.

The group discussions were likely the part that I got the most from, not the strict class materials. It made me glad that we didn't do the class online like I had been thinking of, since we live so far out. During the group discussions we would often get off topic from the lesson questions, and talk about things like ideas for saving money, living simply, and cooking healthy food. As a result of some of these discussions, last month and this month my husband and I made the switch to using cash for our groceries. Our friends have been doing this now since the class started, and I've seen people blog about doing so numerous other times, so you'd think I would have tried it by now.

But for us, it seemed like grocery shopping was under control - and it was. We had a very small grocery budget, and if we went over, it was near the end of the month, so it just came early out of next month. And by going over, I mean like 20 bucks. After all, with a $280 grocery budget, it's easy to go that little bit over.

(Here is where I need to explain that there are a lot of things not in our grocery budget - dog food, we have a separate line item for it, to the cost of 2 bags a month for our 3 medium/large dogs. Toilettries or basically anything not edible, again, separate line item for those things. In addition, we raise our own eggs, we're currently raising a pig, we grow a larger-than-normal garden augmented by a separate deep freezer, and we hunt and fish (or trade) for a lot of our meat. The money for the feed that we give to our laying hens and butcher pig doesn't come from our grocery budget - we have a separate line item for that food. And the money for hunting licenses & gas for hunting also doesn't come from our grocery budget. So you see, there is a lot that we eat that really is outside of that $280/month (just trying for transparency here!).)

Anyway, back to our actual grocery budget. I read lots of posts about how people were amazed at the change when they switched, but I didn't really think it would be like that for us. After all, we use essenitally cash on our debit card, and know how much we have when we go in to the store, and generally stay within our allocated money each month for groceries.

But the reality was a bit different. I hadn't thought about the effort I put into making sure we stay within our grocery budget. Looking at our receipts, entering debit transactions into our budget envelope spreadsheet, keeping an eye on the grocery amount remaining in the spreadsheet before I go to the store. Having all the available cash right in front of my eyes when I was in the grocery store was just way way easier.

And come the end of the first month, I had only one trip left to get a few things to tide us over into the next month, and I realized that I still had $50 in the envelope! Obviously my spending habits, even with a monthly meal plan that I don't remember being different from previous months, were different using just cold hard cash than with a debit card. So we again took out grocery cash for this month. And I expect we'll do it again next month. Because it's a nice feeling at the end of the month to realize we can stock up on sale items that we'll use next month!

So, long story short, if you haven't tried cash for groceries, and I mean real hard cash people, not a debit card, you really need to give it a try. Say you're going to do it just for one month. Like I did. And then say you'll go back to your old ways, cause they aren't so bad, after the month. Again, like I did. And if you find yourself converted, like I am, then I welcome you to this side of the tracks :) (not that I think there is anything wrong with the other side of the track, I've just realized that at this point in our lives, I like this side better).
So now, we've paid cash for our late honeymoon in Hawaii, and I mean we used cold hard cash while we were there, we've been using primarily cash for our blow money (apart from when we order things online, when we deposit the money back into our account or don't take it out in the first place if we know we're going to order something) and now we're doing cash for groceries.... what next?

What about you? Do you have a zero based budget? Have you ever tried using strictly cash for groceries? Do you have other things you pay for in cash?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Forest fires & smoke

There are many forest fires burning in Washington State right now, 4 of which are relatively close to us. Two of these four are basically under control and out it seems, but the other two are much larger and have several areas either evacuated or on evacuation alert. The amount of smoke in the air is reaching the unbearable level - our mucus membranes are all irritated, and unfortunately the still air which is helping fire fighters fight the fires is not really helping clear the smoke out of the valleys!

The firefighters are doing a great job however, and we see them every couple hours either flying helicopters overhead or driving the water tanker trucks up and down our road. They are filling off an irrigation overflow valve just down the road from us, and driving back up past our place to the end of the maintained road and up the forest service roads to the fire nearest our house. Little M waves every time she sees them, and so far has meritted a water tanker honking his horn for her and a helicopter wiggling his tail for her. She's been having a blast!

Compared to the view with all the smoke, here is what we can normally see west of our house... Mountains? What are those?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Selling our farm products - getting customers

In my post last week about putting myself out there to fill up some spots on our weekly egg list, I promised to share some of the bits I've learned about getting customers. I'm definitely no expert, and I hope I keep learning more and more as time goes on, but here's what I've learned so far.

When we first had extra eggs, I took them in to work and hoped that some of my coworkers needed some. I sold a fair number, but then my hens started producing more than my coworkers could eat. Plus, I hated taking the eggs in and asking if anyone needed eggs - I think it made me feel slightly desperate, which I really wasn't. So then I let people know that if they wanted eggs they could contact me and get some occasionally. I also followed up when I saw people interested in eggs, and made sure they knew that I sold the occasional dozen. We had a regular buyer from the start, but due to distance, sales to her weren't as regular as either us or her would have liked, so that led to another lesson - customers have to be really local to make it work & be worthwhile.

Once we decided that we had consistently enough extra eggs to be able to sell regularly, and once I decided that selling just on an occasional basis wasn't exactly working for me, then we sent out that email. But before that, we had done a lot to prepare our market, to convince them if you will, that we regularly sold fresh good quality eggs for a decent price. We did that by offering a free dozen when we had extra to people who we thought might be interested in buying eggs but that we hadn't reached yet. We asked often enough at work or events with friends that those people knew we had eggs available, and a handful of them purchased from us occasionally when they needed eggs.

My email was pretty straight and to the point. I mentioned how many hens we have, that we feed them organic locally produced feed and let them free-range in our fields and orchard daily, and that they have constant access to a fully enclosed small yard attached to their coop. I told them that they were still more than welcome to purchase eggs from us occasionally, with no pressure or commitments, but that we had a list of weekly purchasers with some available spaces on it.

With our 11 hens, especially lately with one of them invariably broody, we have 4 or 5 dozen extra eggs a week. That means that I feel comfortable having 4 people who want to buy from us weekly, and I think we could likely pull off 5 if we were sometimes willing to give our personal eggs up to ensure that every week we had an extra 5 dozen. At the moment we don't have our list quite full, which actually works out well as we are still able to supply our occasional customers with eggs when they need a dozen, or give away or trade a dozen when the need arises.

Another thing that we would have given more thought if we had more hens and thus more available eggs is to have a sign at the end of our driveway. But we like our privacy and solitude, and just don't have that kind of farm yet. So we've shelved that idea for the years to come, when we might just have more than eggs to offer. What about you? I know some of you shared your strategies to obtain customers last week, and you had some really great suggestions, so check back there if you're looking for more. Any others that come to mind that you'd like to share with us?

Later next week I'll share what we've learned so far about keeping customers, and how careful selection of customers goes a long way towards keeping them around long term :)

Linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop.

Monday, September 10, 2012

On putting yourself out there, farming-wise

Last week I sat down and typed up an email that I'd been squirming over for a little while. I included the email addresses (via bcc to respect my customers and keep their information private) of local people who had bought eggs from us once or more over the past year. You see, we've got more eggs than we can possibly use ourselves, and in the past month we have ended up having more than we are able to sell. We needed more regular customers.

We are looking to develop a list of local people who want eggs weekly or biweekly, which we have put off before now because:

1. we seemed to have enough occasional buyers, and

2. because with our young hens we were still attempting to figure out how many extra dozen we had to sell in a given week and month.

Now that we've kept detailed records of production & sales all spring and summer, we've got # 2 dialed in - we know how many eggs our hens produce and how many our family eats on average. But lately # 1 hasn't been working out, so we've had extra eggs.

We've always had occasional egg buyers, either local friends or coworkers, but none had moved from occasional to regular customers, likely mostly due to us not having a regular customer distribution list, and them not being aware we were thinking of starting one. I was also fairly successful at selling eggs to a local corner store for several months earlier in the summer, but lately they have had enough from their other sellers, and since they buy the eggs for less than I can sell them to direct customers because of the store's mark-up, I haven't wanted to push to be on their regular seller list, if they even had an opening. In addition, I really value the direct connection between farmer and consumer that we get when we sell directly to the people eating our eggs. I know I feel better when I know exactly where my food is coming from, and I love being able to provide that connection to my egg customers.

In the future, as we attempt to move towards a bit more of a sustainable farming venture, we will need a good base of customers for our increasing line of farm-grown & produced products. This requires me to do what doesn't come naturally to me, put our name and our goods out there. Stir up a bit of interest in our product, and get some customers to shift from occasional purchases to being committed to buying from us regularly. Occasional customers are great, but in order to supply some kind of stability to our family as we attempt to shift a bit more into farming, we would love to have a larger regular customer list as well as all of our occasional customers.

Egg production from our hens will fluctuate as the seasons change, as they moult or become broody, as our current hens age, and as we add and remove hens from our flock, so we won't always have as many extra eggs as we did back in the height of this summer with young birds and long days, but having a list of regulars that are committed to buying eggs from us will keep us committed to providing good quality eggs on a weekly or biweekly basis.

My email was pretty basic, letting people know that we had a couple openings on our weekly egg-selling list, and if they wanted to move onto the weekly (or biweekly) list they just needed to let me know, but I was sure to give them a brief update on how our chickens were doing and what they were up to.  Later next week I'll share some more detailed tips on how I went about attaining my customers, both occasional and regular, but in the meantime, I know some of my readers are also small farm owners, or heading along that path. Have you gone out looking for customers? When you were starting out, or as you are starting out, did you let your business grow by word of mouth or have you been a bit more persistent to let people know about your product and it's availability? Did you find it difficult to pointedly ask your occasional customers if they would like to be on your regular list? What part of the customer-getting process do you find (or think you would find) the most challenging?

Linking up to the homestead barn hop!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A busy week of harvesting

Not that the fall isn't normally hectic and overly busy, adding in my week+ of travel isn't really making my schedule any more manageable. However, I'm lucky in that some of the things I most enjoy are some of the things that are most pressing to do right now - work in the garden! Or work in the kitchen preserving the bounty that comes from the garden & orchard this time of the year.

This week so far we've harvested, blanched, cut, and frozen 54 ears of corn, which turned into about 16 bags of family side servings of corn veggies. We've harvested enough dill for seed starting next spring, and there are still lots drying on the plants still down in the garden for use between now and next years harvest. We've brought in most of the apples from our early apple tree and made and canned applesauce to eat with our pork chops this winter. We've harvested what will likely be the last bunch of green beans, then blanched, chopped, and frozen them, adding these last 2 bags to the total tally which is now about 20. I picked & pickled my second batch ever of refridgerator pickles using produce from our cucumber & dill plants, which we've been enjoying nightly since. We've also picked a couple more smoothy-servings of strawberries, although they've already been frozen then added to our bellies!


The pig & chickens have been very happy with the amount of compost snacks they have been getting to munch on, that is for sure! All the preserving has given me a couple of very busy afternoon/evening combinations, but it is such a great feeling knowing that we've grown and preserved so much food from our garden so far this year, and I know there is still quite a bit more to come. Hopefully most of it will wait until later in the month when I get back from my friend's wedding - so keep your fingers crossed that it doesn't frost until after I get back! :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

On Travelling

I'm visiting 'home' in a few weeks, primarily to attend & be in the wedding of a close friend from high school & university. I'll have a couple days with my parents & sister, and hopefully will get to meet my cousin's baby - the only offspring of that generation on my side of the family other than Little M. It will be a relatively short trip, I'll only be gone for 10 days, including 2-3 days of traveling to get there and back.

I honestly have been dragging my feet about the whole trip. And in fact I had been blocking it from my mind to such great extent that it was only a few days ago that I realized with a fair amount of shock that I was leaving in only 2 weeks. Gulp.

You see, fall is my busy time. Both at home and at work. Whether it be harvesting garden produce, hunting for grouse, quail, duck, or deer, attending to routine property pre-winter maintenance, or constructing around irrigation season and fish windows at work, fall is when lots of mostly fun things all pile up and make life rather crazy. Its a good sort of crazy, but it's crazy nonetheless. Add to that a few things I've been prioritizing to try and get them done this fall (2 manuscripts and a perhaps overly ambitious rowing goal... ), and things feel a bit hectic around here even before I add in 10 days away...

Before I leave I'm trying to focus on my goals for the year, focus on what is important to get done before I leave, and make weekly (and daily) task lists from my monthly and yearly lists so that I first identify and then attempt to accomplish the most important tasks, but still, whew! Sometimes my life is fairly balanced and organized, but sometimes I end up doing a lot of flying by the seat of my pants to get myself & my little family through a season of perhaps over-committed-ness. The good thing is that at least I know my time away will be filled with friends & family and overall fun-ness, and upon coming back I won't have any big time-commitments looming other than our normal fall busyness!

The other good thing is that the past couple of years we always know our next vacation when we are planning the current one, so right now, not having a vacation plan for next year other than having decided that we may just not go on one due to our having set other priorities for our money and our time, is a bit relaxing to be honest! Oh to just be at home consistently, not juggling volunteers for chicken egg collection and garden watering!

Little M and I were thinking of going to my MIL's place on the lake over the long weekend, but we've decided that right before my trip, spending more time being low-key at home is best, especially since Little M isn't coming with me on this trip due to the schedule of wedding obligations I'll have. I'm sure Little M and I will stay busy though, both this weekend and next, as we've got a lot of projects on the go, plus the local fair is next weekend, so we're planning a trip across to see all the animals.


Not to worry though, I'm going to try to relax and enjoy the moments of fun we have between now and my trip though, because I have a fair number of family-related goals this year that have a lot to do with fun and enjoyment, so I'll try to not stress out if all the things on my list of hope-to-get done's don't get done :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harvesting our Cipollini storage onions

I have this obsession with self sufficiency. To the extent that I won't grow veggie varieties that I know do well here in favor of trying new ones just because the ones I know will do well here are not heirloom varieties. Let me tell, you, not always the right idea when I'm really trying to feed my family first and use heirloom varieties second.

This year though I added a couple new heirloom varieties of onion, and one of them did really well. Well enough that I couldn't find anywhere other than the wood stove hearth that was a big enough space to dry them! Here are (most) of our Cipollini Onions, drying prior to storing them for the winter. These will be our storage onions this winter, hopefully they will do the trick and last us until next summer!

I also planted Walla Walla Onions, which aren't keeper onions, but they should feed us into the early fall. I haven't harvested them yet. Hopefully soon they will be ready but at the moment they are still standing firmly upright and growing. I haven't been as impressed with them, the bulbs just aren't sizing up like I would expect. Of course, I ended up planting them in a less-than-ideal spot, where they stayed a bit wetter than I think they would have liked. I'll give these another try next year and then decide if they deserve to stay in our garden longer term.

Because onion seeds really only last a year, I'll be trying to save and plant some of the cipollini's, and maybe some of the walla walla's too, and get some seeds from them next fall. Of course next spring I'll have to buy more seeds since onions don't flower the first year they are planted. I haven't decided yet whether I want to save some of the small ones as sets, or some of the large ones as that is the size I would rather encourage, but either way I'll keep some for planting.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Turkeys in the yard!

My husband got home from work earlier in the week and spotted seven turkeys walking along the property


Typical of him, he then grabbed Little M and they went out stalking. Which turned into flat out chasing. Not exactly a good way to encourage the turkeys to ever come back, but Little M loved it!


We've seen turkeys on our property only once before, and that time the puppy (Lily) found three of them on the front porch and so she chased them around the house and down into the lower pasture by the creek. That was several years ago. It was nice to see them again :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

A successful graft!

Several months ago, this spring, we attempted around 8 grafts from cuttings from an apple tree at our old house onto some of the existing old apple's at our new house. I wasn't very optimistic due to it being our first time trying grafting, and due to it being a little later than seemed optimal in terms of the cuttings and trees to graft to already being a bit far along with budding out. We also didn't have the best grafting supplies, using syran wrap and elastic bands instead of more specialized grafting supplies. But, we went ahead and tried, because the apple from our old house had such yummy fruit that we didn't want to lose that variety.

And imagine my surprise late last week when wandering through the orchard I realized that behind the one remaining syran-wrapped graft there were green leaves trying to burst free! One of the grafts took! I quickly unwrapped the syran wrap from the tip where the green leaves were trying to emerge.
 Then I checked on how the graft area was doing under the plastic. It was looking good! definite scar tissue had developed, joining the grafted cutting onto the parent tree. Not a perfect seal yet, but a start! So exciting!

Most if not all of our other attempts this spring ended in failure - the syran wrap falling off, or the entire cutting falling out. But for some reason, this one has worked out so far, and it is even the first one we did out of the bunch we did this spring! I'm not certain that it will manage to survive into next year, let alone produce fruit ever, but what an encouraging start to our grafting journey! If you want to see how where we read up about grafting, and how we grafted, check out my first post on grafting. If you never start trying, you are never going to succeed, and this has been so true in our first grafting experiment!

Linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop.

Friday, August 17, 2012

2012 Garlic Harvest

We've apparently been growing a variety of softneck garlic as well as a variety of hardneck garlic these last few years, and careless (and rather unfamiliar with garlic before these past couple years) me just didn't realize until now!

Last week I pulled our garlic as it was starting to get fairly dry and we were forecast to get a day of possible thunderstorms. I lay it all on the deck and then promptly forgot about it for the next two days, first a hot sunny day where the garlic likely got sunburnt (cause p.s., apparently garlic sunburns), and then a day of afternoon thunderstorms where the garlic likely got a bit damp.

After the rain showers I brought it inside and put in a warm yet dry & shady spot in the corner of the kitchen for a week or so longer, then over the weekend Little M and I tidied it up for storage. My husband isn't all that fond of the softneck variety we have, so I won't bother replanting any of that this fall.
Our softneck variety isn't forming cloves at all, it is all still in the round stage. Since we got these varieties from my husband's brother, I have no idea what varieties we have. They may not be ones that do particularly well over here at all - I think we will likely get some local varieties to plant this fall and see how they do next year!

This is our third summer gardening here, and I keep telling people who are just starting their gardens to give themselves at least several years of grace - even with a childhood with many hours spent in the garden, its taken me these three years to really feel like I have gardening down pat here, and with some crops that are newer to me, or that I haven't been focusing on trying to improve, that time will be still longer until I feel confident in growing that particular crop well - garlic is obviously one such example!

What about you - is there a crop that you have been slow to learn how to grow successfully? Mine is obviously garlic. Do you have a crop that you got the hang of really quickly in your gardening space? Mine seems to be hubbard squash.

Monday, August 13, 2012

From the garden today

Harvested fresh from the garden (and coop!) this evening...


The first bunch of green beans large enough to make me think about blanching & freezing them.

Enough zucchini's to make me think about stir-fries in our immediate future to the dismay of everyone in the house but me (yum!).

More delicious farm-fresh eggs.

And some tomatoes to take along to a bring-your-own-BBQ dinner we're going to later this week.

Not pictured - the delicious strawberries that Little M and I devoured in the thick of the strawberry patch, and the last of the raspberries. Fresh garden food enjoyed right in the garden. Best thing ever.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What I'm reading & loving lately

In my spare time this weekend (generally as I'm trying unsuccessfully to not fall asleep while putting Little M down for her nap!) I've been doing lots of reading. Reading about pickling cucumbers, reading about pigs, and reading about simple living. In my stack right now are Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs, and Organized Simplicity. I love books!



I'm also loving these weekend evenings. Not so good on the family time side of things, but so good on the down time for mama side of things. Everyone but mama has to be in bed by 9. Which means I get to unwind and become very tired by at the latest 10. That gives me another while to read, or get the main room & kitchen all tidied up for the day to come. It's really making our days go smoother, without me staying up until all hours to get everything done!

And to top it off, I've been getting up earlier since the house is all quiet and the bed is empty so early (the mr is currently getting up at 5:30, very hard for a night owl like him to accomplish!). The amount of outside work I can get done by myself between 6:15 and 7:15 is just amazing. And then I don't feel guilty about dozing off with Little M in the afternoons - win win win all around :) With the heat we've been experiencing lately, those cool morning moments spent outside are much appreciated!

The photo's are of sunset last night. We've had several forest fires burning around us, although quite a ways off. First east of here late last week and into the weekend, and then today another one started a ways south of here. This smoke blew into our little valley in the early evening, but within an hour of sunset it had blown on by. Before it cleared up, it smelled pretty smokey outside and I would feel it stinging my eyes, so I was glad to see it lighten up!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bringing our butcher piglet home

After putting in some hot sweaty hours over the weekend, our pig pen was pretty much ready, so Monday evening we went down to our wonderful neighbor's barn and brought our pig home. He is castrated and about 2 months old. He had a shot of deworming medicine this evening while we picked him up, and although the first day or two he was definitely missing his littermates and mother, he's really starting to settle in, get used to his chicken & human companions, and gobble down that food of his. We've named him Pat the Pig.

For his pen we bought 4 16' hog panels and a mesh-filled metal gate. We already had the t-posts, wood corner posts, and all of the shelter material except for some long screws, so that really cut costs down.

We're borrowing a feeder from our neighbor, and used some plastic pipe we had laying around for the waterer, in addition to a new water nipple. We've also got a trickle of irrigation water moistening a little mucking spot for him.

My husband is convinced that raising this pig will be too expensive for the meat to be worth it, but for me it's more than just the cost comparison of the pork in the end. It's knowing what went into the pig, knowing how it's life was lived, ending up with all the manure, and learning from the process of raising it. I'm lucky that my husband understands that for me growing and raising our own food, be it meat or vegetables, is more than a way to feed our family, it's a hobby verging on a way of life, just like hunting is for him.

If someday in the future we end up raising and breeding pigs, even just on a very small scale like our neighbor is currently doing, this first pig is teaching us valuable lessons that will help us move into that phase. Heck, it's teaching us valuable lessons about lots of things, building small structures, putting fence up, and most of all, just how to raise a butcher pig. Farming isn't something you just jump into, and the startup generally comes with increased time and cost. That's where we are at now, and I'm so happy we are :)
Linking up to the Homestead Barn Hop.
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