Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blueberry picking!

We visited a you pick your own blueberries farm today.  We have not had any luck growing our own so we were excited to go buy some at a great price to put away for another day.  So far tonight I have made blueberry muffins and have eight 1/2 pints of blueberry jam in the canner.  I still have over a gallon of berries to go so I'm excited at all the prospects!  I wanted to share some photos of our day out.

TH used his "We'll-Take-The-Scenic-Route" super power today and we saw some beautiful countryside on the way home.  I love our scenic routes!

Hope you all are enjoying summer so far!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eating and Preserving from the Garden

The squash and cucumbers are doing awesome this year!
This was what I picked Sunday morning from our garden.  TH and I decided to make pickles Sunday afternoon and had a good time working on it together.
We made some dill pickles and bread and butter pickles.  We did have a few learning opportunities throughout the process.  I learned to always check the acidity of your vinegar before beginning to can.  I had some generic white vinegar on hand and it was only 4% acidity.  For home canning, your vinegar needs to be at 5%.  We had one jar that cooled off too much before we added it to the simmering water bath canner to process and it burst the bottom out of the jar.  I also tried writing on the hot jars with a crayon as they came out of the canner.  It worked great!  I had heard of this method of marking your jars but hadn't tried it until yesterday.  

Tonight I'll be making a stir-fry with lots of squash and zucchini.  We are loving having all this fresh produce!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The garden continues to provide fresh veggies for our suppers.  I've already begun to sneak squash and zucchini into dishes that you normally wouldn't see them in.
The tomatoes are coming in though they are all still green.  I hope to have lots of tomatoes to can since we planted so many tomato plants.  TH says I need to pick my favorite two varieties and do only those next year but I love seeing how the different types grow.
We are having to approach our guinea situation differently than first planned.  Since five of the original six seem to be lost forever, we let our remaining guinea named "Doodle" bunk with the chickens.  He was caught after being spotted running across the backyard two days after the great escape.  He somehow manages to get out of the chicken yard and always lets me know that he's out and about.  He is a noisy little creature but we like him.  We bought a dozen guinea eggs to sneak under our hateful ole broody hen.  She started sitting and within two days, I was able to get the guinea eggs.  Guinea eggs take 25 to 28 days to hatch as opposed to the normal 21 days for chicken eggs.  I'm hopeful that the momma hen will stick with it hatch us out a chorus of guinea babies.  We know they will still wander but hopefully being raised by one of our chickens, they'll have a better understanding of where home is.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our first produce of the year!!!

We've been eating onions for a while out of the garden but today is the first day we'll be enjoying fresh produce from the garden!  TH says "Success!!!".  It is a great feeling of accomplishment when you get those first young squash, zucchini, and cucumbers off the vine.
We're conserving cooking fuel and cooking everything on the grill tonight.  We have a chicken, some potatoes, and a pouch with zucchini, squash, and onion cooking at the same time.  We'll just cut the cucumbers up and enjoy them alongside supper.

On a sadder note, the guineas flew the coop sometime between 8:30 pm last night and 9:00 am this morning.  There is a very slim chance that they will show back up but we figure that was a loss and a lesson learned.  I really do not believe a predator got into the goat shed to get them but that they simply wandered off.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The weeds are taking over!

Or trying to at least.  At the moment they are winning.  We had some really good rainfall this week and the garden has gone into overdrive.  This also means the weeds are growing fast and furiously!  I hope to get out the tiller today and do some damage control.

I had won a photo contest a month or so ago and still had a little money left over.  I wanted to buy something that I would have a long time so it didn't seem like I had nothing to show for the win.  TH was going to a Stihl dealer to look at a weedeater to replace our old one that was literally falling apart.  I tagged along and fell in love with a Stihl tiller on the showroom floor.  I whispered to TH to see what kind of deal we could get if we bought his trimmer and the tiller together.  We didn't get too much of a discount off the purchase price, but TH kept asking for free stuff and we got a couple of little things to go with our purchases.  They also had a deal that if you bought Stihl oil, they would extend your warranty to four years.  We went for that as we don't have the best track record with outdoor power equipment.  Hopefully, by buying a quality product, we'll have better luck this time.

I had received an old, small tiller a few years ago from freecycle.  We worked on that thing every year but never could get it to run just right and once it did run well enough, it started leaking gas.  MHM likes to tinker with those things and I also had picked up a vintage Vitamix blender at an estate sale the MHM really liked.  TH was able to work out a trade and we were able to barter the tiller and blender for a utility trailer he had been wanting for quite a while.  TH plans to enclose the sides and use the trailer to haul trash and the occasional goat.  It is too high for loading cattle though, so that problem is lurking in the back of our minds.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Time to bring out the sprinklers.

Yesterday was a good day around the farm.  I had ordered Homestead Blessings:  The Art of Making Bread from one of my favorite online stores MyPatriotSupply.com.  I started watching the dvd at 9:00 am and by noon, I had a pan of cinnamon rolls in the oven.
They rose very well and tasted great!  I used half white flour and half freshly ground wheat.  You can definitely taste a difference.

Later in the evening, TH and I worked out in the garden.  He did most of the work as I still needed to fix supper and didn't get out that way until later.  He decided to go ahead and hook up a sprinkler as there is no rain in the immediate forecast.
I found this sprinkler new in the package at a yard sale yesterday afternoon.  We did have some water pressure issues to begin with.  The sprinkler got stuck in one position and caused a wee bit of flooding in one part of the garden.  Other than that, we were pleased with the new sprinkler's reach.

I worked on the cucumber climbing trellis.  We had an old metal swing set frame the TH was going to scrap but I asked him to let me try growing cucumbers on it.  I have tied several strings around and through it to give plenty of climbing directions.  The first string I used was the brown twine but after seeing how brittle and frail it is, I have added a second set of string with a white poly string.
TH offered to remove the last swing part but I told him it adds more character.  The shade cloth is working very well.  We still need to till between the rows but our vines growing out of the cloth are growing well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Almost ready for squash!

Our squash plants have little baby squash growing on them.  I was hoping that a good rain this week would make it possible to start eating them next week but I'm not so sure now.  We've had several overcast days but no more than a drizzle as far as rainfall goes.  We are all anxiously awaiting our first meal with fresh squash and zucchini!

We were given some hay bales from some very kind friends this week.  TH and THB went to pick them up using his car hauler trailer.  During moving the bales from the trailer to the barn, TH lost some of the hay and left it there for me to glean for the garden.  Now, mulching with hay is usually a big no-no as it can introduce weed seeds to a garden but our garden is situated in a middle of a weed field and we have no hope of preventing weed seeds.  I mulched around a few pepper plants that didn't get placed in the shade cloth and around my pumpkin plants.  I hope the pumpkins will grow wildly around their section and flourish.

I had bought a large lot of canning jars from an estate sale recently and just finished boxing them up.  I had seen an ad on Craiglist for the jars but they were a little overpriced for my budget.  I called and left a message that while I knew they were asking a certain amount, if they were unable to sell them at that price, I would give them a lesser amount.  The gentleman called back within two hours and said they would be happy to accept my offer and to come on over to get them.  We loaded boxes upon boxes of jars.  We had taken the seats out of our van and still it was a tight fit.  The ride home made me a bit nervous.  We had a van full of glass jars and over 40 miles to travel.  
I don't have room to keep the jars in the house so we store them in an outbuilding.  I label each box with what type of jar is inside so I can find what I need quickly once canning season gets rolling.

The guineas are still doing well.  TH is using his carpentry super power to build a house for them.  We hope to move them out of the garage within a couple of weeks.

Hope you all are having a great week!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Our newest poultry!

After a few years of deliberating, TH and I finally decided to add some guineas to our farm.  They are supposed to be wonderful for pest control and predator alerts.  I'm hoping they will eliminate our need for pesticides in the garden.  We are still making the final decisions about where they will be trained to house.  We know they may choose to roost in the trees but we hope to have them know where safe shelter will be for bad weather.
We found an ad on Craigslist for a lady nearby who offered guinea keets for sale.  We went yesterday evening to bring these little darlings home.  It's hard to believe that such cute little fluff balls turn into guineas.  We are looking forward to their antics and to a lot less ticks.

The lady we bought them from was a very knowledgeable woman.  She took extra time to answer any questions we had.  She also gave us four Barnevelder eggs for us to try and hatch.  If they do hatch, it will add some new blood to our Barnevelders and might allow us to bring up a young rooster to serve along Roy our older rooster.

I didn't get to very many yard sales this week.  I did find a painting at a junk shop that I love.
This painting is special to me because it was painted by my great uncle.  We had only one of his paintings hung in our living room and this one will be a nice addition to it.  When I saw it across the shop, I thought it looked very similar to ours and was very happy to see his name signed on the corner.  I know it is a thousand wonders that I came across it and felt that I needed to buy it and bring it home.  I paid $10 for it which was my limit but feel it was well worth it.  The man in the shop asked if my great uncle's paintings went for a lot of money and I told him they may not be worth a penny to anyone else but it was important to me.  He was glad to hear my connection to the painting and told me that they got in an auction or sale in Virginia. It's funny how things come about.

We have a couple of other projects in the works I hope to blog about next week.  We are working on a homemade incubator and I just bought a small tiller to use in the garden.