It’s been a busy one. Canning, butchering, more canning… The tomato shelf looks amazing, with jars and jars of sauce. All the white turkeys have gone to Freezer Camp. And I put a bunch of them into jars too for quick meals. Today I’m finishing up ducks and duck stock. We’re now at our winter numbers for birds. Have to say, I’m glad bird butchering is done, and we didn’t do anywhere near what we’ve done the past few years. But tomorrow is the big butchering day. Tomorrow we get our pig. This year all we’re doing for “fancy” or retail cuts is loin chops, the tenderloin, bacon (because why have pig if no bacon??), and ground. No roasts, no stew, just grind the rest. And bone broth. Because I love me some bone broth, so I’ll be making can canning much pork bone broth. Might make sausages, but truthfully, we tend to eat a lot of crockpot meals with ground meats throughout the winter, so ground is going to be better for us. Especially with all the tomato sauce I have jarred. 😉
And the duck coop/greenhouse will be finished today. Hubby and The Kid are putting the roof sheathing and metal on today, and then, the birds can move in… Then it’s just a deep clean of the chicken coop, move Lenny and Karl’s coop to the garage (after we get our hay delivery, because 6 bales go straight in for spring/next year) and get next year’s garlic planted. We heard from our Hay Guy yesterday and have delivery set up in a couple weeks…mares are still nommin on long pasture, and I have a line on a few round bales, so if we get short before our Guy can get to us, I’ll grab a couple rounds and put one out. Got straw home for the birds, with a chance for another dozen small bales for winter. Tomorrow I’ll make arrangements for rounds of straw for the mares, since we get rounds from the same farm as we get our piggie. And that’s where we’re at… Busy, getting ready as we can for stupid winter. But, here’s a cute picture of Lenny and Karl (our incubator ducklings) for ya:
There’s still so much to do before that nasty “w” season hits. This weekend we’re working on a duck coop…part of our problem last year was the coop we have just didn’t keep everyone warm enough. Even with heat. And, if you remember, it got buried after we were hammered repeatedly by blizzard after blizzard after blizzard. So we’re building something else. Bigger foot print, taller for ease of entry for humans, better insulated for ducky health. Not that I really want to build something, but, in order to keep the flock healthy, we need to. So we will.
Meanwhile, the garden is rolling along. Huge, growing like crazy, starting to produce…at least, that which the grass hoppers haven’t eaten. I’ll have enough tomatoes to make a batch of wine. There’s a ton of carrots and beets… Well here’s pictures:
There is so much food in there…I just have to wade in and bring it out. And put as much as I can into jars for winter. Also in the pictures, where I’ve been cutting the grass short to work on the ever expanding garden. I need to prep a bed for raspberry canes, to put a couple rhubarb plants, an area for asparagus, and figure out where to put a half barrel for horseradish. I also have 4 grape cutting growing like mad that I want to plant this weekend. And, if I have a chance to harvest any grapes (there’s tons of bunches, but will the grasshoppers get them? We’ll have to see…) that’ll be awesome. I’m also going to grab a couple dozen more cuttings to get rooted and growing over winter.
And then there’s the meat birds to get into the freezer. Coops to clean (which goes hand in hand with that garden expansion very nicely…) and after coops are cleaned out and the bedding piled into the spots, I’ll get Hubby to spend a day or so bringing me bucket after bucket of rotten horse crap to top the chicken bedding/crap. Then that can all cook down over winter to become plantable in the spring.
On top of all that, we’re on our 3rd day in a row of Loop pickup. That’s the food waste from grocery stores reduction program we’re a part of. Feeding food waste to farm animals. Welp, we were offered a coverage pickup Sunday. We said yes. We were offered another coverage pickup Monday. We said yes. Today is our regular bi-weekly pickup. So 3 days in a row… I am not complaining. Not even a little bit! It’s a lot of work to sort and process and feed out, but damn, it’s a huuuuuuge help on the feed bill. Especially with the pekins, white turkeys, and geese. These birds…I tell ya, they could eat a farmer out of house and home! 😂😂😂 But they love the produce, the bakery stuff, the dairy…every one is growing beautifully and is super healthy. And, we’ve been offered a weekly pickup at one of the stores we typically do random coverage pickups on…so YAY for that!
Going into winter, we’re looking at 5 pekins staying (for breeding next year), a pair of geese (for the same reason) and the muscovies. We have 2 drakes that are leaving the breeding program. Neither one have desirable traits to continue in the program, so they’re gonna go camping. Freezer camping. 😉 Of the 3 ducklings we had hatch (another reason to have a 2nd duck coop, to have a bachelor pen come broody season…hard for hens to successfully hatch when the boys are being pains int he butt), we know we have 1 hen and 1 drake for sure. The 3rd, little Potato (yep, a duckling named Potato), we’re not sure yet…leaning towards drake, but it’ll be a few weeks before we know for sure. Then come spring we’ll do some cross fencing in the duck yard so we can pair off certain hens with the best drakes and so we can extend the lives of our current drakes…by that I mean, some of the boys, once they have fathered too many ducklings, go onto freezer camp. But if we rotate them though hens, tracking which keeper hens are parented by whom, we can cycle them through the drakes with very little inbreeding.
And then… Just for even more fun. Our local mega mart has gotten in their cases of roma tomatoes. Look, I *want* to say that I’ve 1000% figured out our micro climate and am rolling in the tomatoes so much so that I have more than I can put up…but I’d be lying. So I watch the local canning groups for reports of the 1/2 bushels arriving, and when that happens, I send the Hubby off to get me some. If I wait beyond the first week craziness, the prices tend to drop and I can get 3-400lbs of tomatoes for a really good price. Then comes the canning. And the crying. And the reminding myself that there’s no crying in canning!! Oh yeah, and the insane loopiness. Which is alleviated with a nice cold drink at the end of the day.
Ah well, soon enough the summer/fall work will be done, and we’ll transition seasons. As always, the wheel continues to turn…
This past week I discovered we have a chokecherry tree in our pasture. The same pasture the horses are in. This is both a good thing to have, and a very, very bad thing to have.
It’s good because chokecherries make an amazing wine. A rich red that, done right, is absolutely delicious. It’s bad because chokecherries are highly toxic to horses. As in, death can occur within minutes of eating any part of the bush/tree.
So, obviously, this cannot stay. We’ll be cutting and burning it out this weekend. Thankfully, The Merry Mares are not in the front pasture right now because we have some visitors for the next month:
We were asked by a local honey farmer if we’d be willing to let him put some hives in our pasture for a month or so…in exchange, we’d get some honey. Uh, okay. 🙂 So the horses are locked out of the front, because I have absolute faith in 1. Sable to try to make friends with the bees and get stung (wherein we’d find out she’s deathly allergic to stingy/buzzy things and have to use aaaaaaalllllll The Kid’s epi-pens to keep her alive ’til Dr. Neil got here) 2. Astrid to eat bees as they come out of the hive to do their jobs and 3. both Ruby and Astrid knocking hives over to get at the sweet yummy goodness inside (being the sweet toothed Walking Stomachs that they are)… The farmer insisted that horses are fine with the hives, and we didn’t have to lock them out, but really, it’s easier this way…plus then we can just leave the gate open for when he has to come check on them and do whatever they need to do (I know nothing about beekeeping other than the Winnie the Pooh thing of I love to eat honey!). And then we can deal with the chokecherry safely.
The other day I picked the chokecherries off (there wasn’t nearly as many as I had hoped there would be(e)…😂😂😂) and popped them in the freezer. I have 2 black currant bushes that have been producing amazingly well this year, but they’re not all ripening at the same time, so, I pick them as they ripen and freeze. To go with that, the hawthorn tree is *loaded* with berries. That will be ready soon…I have to keep an eye on them so the wild birds don’t get them before I do… That will give me a 3 berry combination for my Samhain wine.
(If talk of spirits and witchcraft bothers you, stop reading here…)
Back in 2020 on Samhain (Hallowe’en for most) I crafted a beet root wine. It was done with intention. Beets were pulled from the ground on the day, and with a prayer of thanks to the Earth for growing food for us. The evening was thick with energy and power, between being the time when the Veil between the world is the thinnest and we were in the midst of an incredibly powerful windstorm. Normally I’ll push the wind limits for a bonfire on Samhain, but that year even I wasn’t chancing it. But we did do the re-setting of the wards around the Farm, with salt and incantations. And then I came in and brewed up the beet root wine…
Last Samhain, when re-setting the wards (basically an energy grid fueled by the land and our intentions to keep all the nasty shit/energy out of the Farm) I used the beet root wine as the foundation, with salt again. And what does beet root wine taste like? Like this:
So I still have this year’s bottle for this year’s celebration. I also have the “1 for whenever…” bottle. But after that? Well, this year is the year to brew up another Witch’s Brew for next year. And this year’s brew will be based on the chokecherry (powerful enough to kill in minutes, but sweet enough to make delicious wine), black currants (sweet and sour), and hawthorn berries (like chockecherry, powerful enough to kill, but makes a sweet, fruity, delicious jelly and wine). It’ll be put together on Samhain and it will age the full year before bottling on Samhain. Some will be kept for the bottling year’s Working, and the rest will be bottled for subsequent years. I hope, after a few years of crafting wines like this, to have a nice selection of spiritually and power based wines to pick from as needed.
(end witchcraft talk for those who want to come back in)
Earlier in the week Hubby made a pit stop at the local brew shop we frequent for some supplies for me:
The oak chips go into a plain sugar shine to impart a whiskey flavouring. I haven’t gotten up to doing full grain mashes yet, so this is how I make “whiskey”. 😉 The bag of juniper berries is to impart a gin flavouring. The really big bag underneath is 2.2lbs of elderberries. That will be used for tinctures, fermented honey, a small batch of wine, and immune boosting syrup. And that bag of yeast? Lemme tell you about that bag of yeast…
That there is 100 packets of Super B wine yeast. Good for all sorts of fruit wines, works well in most temps. (obviously extremes will stress it), and has an alcohol tolerance to 18%. It’s a lovely all around easy to use wine yeast. And work gangbusters for mash bases for shines too. It’s listed on the brew shop’s website for $.25/packet. Great frickin’ price, since it’s normally $1.75. And even that’s a great price compared to other shops where the EC 1118 equivalent is $2.99/pckt. I took a chance on Super B several years ago when the shop had a “all you can fit in your hand for $5” sale. For $5 I got 48 packages (hooray for freakishly large hands for a woman!!) and even though they were dated 2014, I haven’t had a single one not do the job. So, when I saw $.25/pckt, I asked Hubby to zip over for 100 of them. Well… It turned out the “all you can fit…” sale was still going on. And the fellow ringing up the purchases said “huh. Looks like a handful to me”. So my bag of yeast was a whopping $5. Yeah. That’s freaking awesome. 🙂
So right now I have a giant sugar mash going, for making tincture bases. Then I have some frozen pineapple (Yay for the Flashfood app, where you can get boxes of cheap fruits!) to make a pineapple wine. Made one earlier this year with brown sugar…OMG. One of the best wines I’ve made! So that’s next. Then I have some strawberries in the freezer (I actually made it out picking, so froze enough for a batch of wine) that I’m going to mix with some homegrown rhubarb. I hate rhubarb as a fruit, but as a wine? Yeah, there’s a reason I’ve got a handful of rhubarb plants going now. 😉 And after that? Well, I just don’t know. I suspect it’ll be another green tomato, since I bottled that (and distilled some) and I’m sure there will be green tomatoes in my garden at the end of the season. There’s always an apple based something or other to do too…our apple trees have a good amount on them for young trees, so maybe that… Or maybe I’ll get brave and try a carrot wine. *shrug* I know it sounds crazy, but who would have though green tomato would be good? And it is, it’s one of my go-to wines to make. Why not carrot too?
I had winter sown some borage seeds. I waited a long time to finally see the wee teeny seedling come up. And then I forgot about it in the container for a while. Finally, I got around to putting it into the garden…not in any particular spot, just in a “oh, there’s a space, let’s plant something there!” spot. I had no real expectation of it doing much of anything…
Until this morning when this greeted me:
So, now I’ll let this plant self seed for next year. One of the things about winter sowing is that the plants that *do* come up and produce are best to save seeds from (or let self seed) because they’re acclimatized to your micro climate. Since my micro climate can be incredibly harsh (even though we’re zone3 over all, my micro climate can oft times be zone2) anything that acclimatizes here (that we can use) will be encouraged.
Other goings on include:
Volunteer tomatoes coming up all over the place. There’s easily 6 of them, maybe more in the weeds….shhhhh, we won’t talk about the fact that I’m behind on weeding… These are from composted tomatoes from Loop. Who knows what kinda tomatoes we’ll get from these plants, but if they’re tasty, I’ll save seeds from them and give them another shot next year. There’s also a whole lot of ground cherries coming up…I was warned that growing them once typically means having them forever…that’s fine with me! Ground cherries are delicious! So having a whole bunch of volunteers come up is awesome. I hope to have enough to make a batch of wine with them. I think they’d make a very tasty wine.
And the mullein (and a few other of the medicinals) are growing beautifully. They’ve been getting a weekly application of the stinging nettle tea, so they’re just about ready for a small harvest…enough that thins them out nicely and gives me enough for winter tinctures.
Plus, the stinging nettles, that some lovely horse 🙄🤦♀️ decided to munch the beautiful tops off of, are ready for another harvest, and to made into a tincture. As well as more dried for winter teas. And the bonus is, the stems will be chopped and fermented into fertilizer.
No, no, no, not *that* weed… Nah, ’round here we’re not exactly 4:20 friendly…not that we care if someone else uses, but I have violent reactions to it in all forms. The scent of the smoke causes me to vomit and I really dislike vomiting. 😂😂😂
Nope, when I say “weed tea” I mean pulling your weeds out, chopping them up, covering with water, and fermenting them. Whyever would someone do that? Because, m’dears, that is fertilizer for you plants! Free fertilizer. From plants you want to get rid of… See? This really is a good thing.
Here’s a basic run down of how to do it: Turn Your Weeds into Nutrient-Rich Fertilizer Go ahead and click the linky to read…I’m too tired and lazy to write it all out… But where she says use a tight fitting lid, I don’t bother. I have a few extra recycling buns lying about, so I just use one of those:
I will say, it stinks. Bad. But it works. I’ve done compost tea many, many times, and had excellent results. In fact, back in the city, with regular applications of compost tea during fruit set, I noticed an increase of almost 1/2 a bushel on our dwarf apple tree. That’s pretty damn awesome. And this year, I’ve been using the nettle fertilizer on the medicinal plants (mullein, hyssops, calendula, etc…) and had fantastic growth from them. This weekend, I’ll be hitting the tomatoes with it…
The only downside (aside from smell) is that I have to apply it with a watering can. That’s a bit of a pain, but it is what it is. I don’t really mind wandering through the garden with a watering can. It’s kinda relaxing. And really, it only need doing every couple of weeks, so it’s not like it’s a huge time sucking chore.
And the real bonus? Used as a spray on the foliage, it help deter and destroy aphids. Oh damn!! If only I had known, and had some made, back in the spring when the aphid infestation hit my pepper seedlings and the result of my treatments killed them (my peppers, not the damned aphids) all off…🙄🤦♀️ So I’m going to make sure I have a jar of the stinky juice to keep over winter, with having indoor plants that’ll need feed boosts and (hopefully not) treatments for aphids. Plus it uses weeds. We all have weeds that need to be pulled. Why not use them to our benefit? Seems like a no brainer to me…
Way back in the fall, I joined a seed swap on Instagram. It was a fun way to share seeds from our areas and seeds from plants we love. The host, Ash from Grower’s Blend, gifted participants with seeds from her own shop. She sent me both Gun Metal Grey tomatoes and Inkspot microdwarf tomatoes. I am a huge tomato nerd and was over joyed with these seed packets.
So a few weeks ago, after a discussion with Hubby about growing food indoors, I decided to start some of the Inkspots. They’re little, can be kept as a houseplant easily, and they make food. Gotta like that. So into some potting soil went 5 seeds. All 5 sprouted. And look how damn cute these wee tomatoes are!
For scale, I started them in those individual yogurt serving cups. (please remember, I don’t buy those yogurt cups, we get them in our Loop food waste for farm animals pickups) Doesn’t help? Okay, here’s one with my coffee cup for scale…
It’s a big cup, about 5 inches tall, holds several traditional cups of coffee at a time. Because coffee is life, ya know?
Anyways, the tomatoes… Almost ready for their next pots. I’ve a handful of 3/4 gallon pots that will be their permanent homes and we’ll see how they do. If nothing else, the happiness factor of having houseplants (with cats who don’t really care about them) is worth something.
It’s that busy time of year where just about everything has to be done all at the same time… Garden needs weeding and mulching. Hay needs cutting, raking, baling. Animals need yards, moving, shifting, getting outdoors. And the regular day-to-day stuff still has to happen too…laundry, dishes, cleaning the house… Give it a couple of months and we’ll be adding canning, and butchering to the list of things that need doing. I, uh, mighta started this Farming thing a bit late in life…I’m tired. But it’s a good tired, so not much complaining is happening. 😉
So how’s things going?
Duck and goose babies now have regular outdoor time. That makes keeping their coop cleaner much easier. All the food and water is out in their yard, and most of the pooping happens out there too. 😂😂😂 They’re growing like mad, eating weeds from the garden, produce from Loop, and fermented grains. The ducks are starting to quack like normal ducks, which confuses the hell out of the muscovies. Genetically, muscovies are similar to geese, so they don’t speak the same “duck” as mallard derived ducks. Instead of quacking (noisily, I might add!!) muscovies trill (girls) and hiss (boys). They are much, much, much quieter than pekins!
Garden is all planted. Except for the few stragglers I keep seeming to bring home from the local greenhouse. Yesterday another 14 tomato plants arrived. 😂😂😂 1 is specifically for in the house, and at least 1 other will come in too…but most will be fit into spare small spots in the garden. As has been explained to me, there is no such thing as “no more room to plant”, much like there is no such thing as “no more room for books”. It is true.
Hubby and The Kid got the fencing up around my Ruth Stout garden yesterday. While I pulled thistles out of the haying area. I don’t mind feeding the mares weeds…in fact, many weeds are good for them (some aren’t of course, but those are removed), like thistles are (they’re excellent for liver health), but too many in a bale of hay won’t get eaten…and a certain Palomino Princess has been known to eat dried thistles and get stickers stuck inside her mouth/lips. That’s not a good time to deal with, especially since her 1 fault is having humans doing anything near/in her mouth. I no longer give her worming pastes…not after having been lifted 3 feet in the air by her halter as she reared to get away from the tube of funky goo. It’s just not a good time and it ain’t worth fighting with her. When she gets her teeth floated, she’s drugged before the vet sticks his hand in… Trust me, it’s the best for everyone. No one wins when fighting 1500lbs. Anyways… I pulled a massive load of thistles out and fed them to all the birds. Ducks and geese just plain love any food we give them, so they got the bulk of them.
The Kid fashioned a yard for the first brooder of turkey babies and they got a chance to get outside for the first time ever yesterday.
It was a bit scary at first, but then they came out and discovered their pile of thistles. Then the singing and cooing started. And then the dust bathing… They were doing great until Daphne ran by and well, apparently, dogs are terrifying to little turkeys who’ve never seen such a thing before! 😂😂😂
There’s also the foraging harvests to do… Stinging nettles, pineapple weed, lamb’s quarters, yarrow (which I discovered we’ve had for a while, but didn’t realize, so I’ve planted it for next year…this year I can harvest the wild…), thistles for teas (because liver health 😉 ), some prairie sage, and soon, chokecherries and hawthorn berries, and saskatoons… Some will be dried for teas, much will be made into tinctures, some will become salves/balms.
Then, I planted some poblano seeds for indoor peppers. Some Inkspot micro dwarf tomatoes for indoor tomatoes. And I took a small tendril off the grape vine so I can try propagating it. And so on, and so forth…
Back before I started my tomato plants, I had an aphid infestation in my peppers. There was some treatments done, and then there was the last treatment that fried them all. There were many tears, because the poblanos were the strongest, nicest, pepper seedlings I had ever grown. But, shit happens (as they say) and they were all lost.
Today we wandered into the nearest small town to look for some parts for our bbq, and discovered the local greenhouse was clearing out their plants. So I did a thing…
A 6 pack of red peppers, a single cayenne pepper (I’m the only one here who likes spicy), and a mystery tomato…they had half a table of them…bit of an accident led to a whole bunch of tags going missing, so they were selling ’em off as “mysteries”. 😂😂😂 Worth a buck, if you ask me. And then, the pots. The lovely woman running the greenhouse tells me I can take whatever I want because they’ll likely get tossed anyways…so I grabbed all the pink pots/trays. I like pink. I like growing plants. I like pink plant pots. I like *free* pink plant pots. 🤷♀️
So today I’m planting peppers. And working on weeding the garden. And waiting for the next round of the rains. It’s a good day. 🙂
Last of the tomatoes went in the garden today. Hear that?? That was a huge sigh of relief coming from me…and the joyous meowing of a tabby who can now lie across his favorite bookcases watching the birds out the window without getting yelled at by Mom… I’ve got a few little things to tuck into corner spaces, but the bulk of the big planting is done. Done enough for the “All In” dance. Or a few cold beers on the deck listening to the bug zapper destroy mosquitoes. Or a good long nap. Or…all 3.
It’s now all in Mother Nature’s hands. Well, and mine for the weeding and mulching, and maybe a bit of watering…but we’ve had decent rainfall so I’m not so worried about that. Frankly, at this point, I need a few weeks *without* rain because it’s haying time and I got hay to get cut and put up for the winter. And, if my hay spots are any indication, as long as folks can get in, get it cut, then baled, it could be a damn fine year for hay. Damn fine, indeed. All we need is for Mother Nature to get a little d and be nice to us. 😂😂😂 Fingers crossed.
Oh and just for funsies? I’m going to start a few poblano peppers to grow in the house over winter…peppers are a perennial, so they make an awesome house plant…that also makes food. 😉 And I have seeds for a micro dwarf tomato that I want to try too… The house just seems dark and boring without the grow lights on. So I need to start some indoor food plants. 🙂
I only have tomato plants left to get into the garden. Well, aside from a few random winter sown plants that just need to establish before the Fall so they can come back next year…
But, for the big, need to harvest this year stuff… Tomatoes.
Yesterday I got the Ruth Stout potato patch planted. That’s the garden expansion in front of the house that will continue to expand as we go… I also mixed up a wheelbarrow load of well rotted equine poo with some topsoil and a bit of potting soil I had left over from starting seeds in the house, then laid it down in a line at the edge of the straw mulch garden, and planted rattlesnake pole beans there. After the rains stop today, I’ll get out there with the scythe and cut the grass down around it, so that this weekend we can put up the fencing to a. protect growing plants from chickens, and b. for the pole beans to climb up on.
Then I got a line of raspberry canes planted. A friend had mentioned she needed to thin her patch and asked if I wanted the canes she dug out… Um, yes please! So those are in, and getting rained on today. So now, just the tomatoes. And cutting hay…then the raking and the baling. To go with the weeding, mulching and random watering. So there you have it… Summer is underway, and we’re busy, as usual. Soon enough, harvests will start to come in, and then I’ll be working on putting those foods up…
As ever the wheel continues to turn and we must go along with it. Happy Summer Solstice all! Hope you enjoy the day…and the days of summer ahead! 🙂