Archive for the ‘General Homesteading’ Category
Cheesemaking is kicking into high gear…we’re freezing a lot of chevre to enjoy later when the milking slows down, and here’s the beginning of a farmhouse cheddar:
I screwed up the last batch of beer and foolishly didn’t brew for a while. Our homemade beer (when it works, which it usually does) is much tastier than what we buy at the store, and ends up costing about half as much.
Here’s five gallons of soon-to-be-porter bubbling away:
Last year, we got a freeze in early September that took out all the tomato plants, and Teri made a lot of green tomato ketchup. This year, none of the main (Brandywine) tomato crop had turned red by that point, and my dreams of pasta sauce seemed to by dying…but the past month has been mostly sunny and warm, and we’re bringing in five-gallon buckets every few days.
Though we aren’t entirely dependent on our homegrown food, it’s probably saving us a couple of thousand dollars a year now, so I have a little more appreciation for how much people doing this in the past were subject to the whims of the weather…and for what a joy it is when one’s hard work is rewarded with abundance:
In a break from my usual “functionality IS the aesthetic” carpentry ethic, I’ve made a tea table to go alongside my desk (I hate having beverages and food on the same surface as my computer). The top was from a rough-cut slab of some unknown hardwood that I got a bunch of for free because of “imperfections”, and the base is something that was left behind when the electric co-op trimmed around the power lines.
It’s beautiful wood…but I didn’t know that when I got it, so most of it is incorporated into the chicken coop. Now that I’ve seen it sanded and sealed, I think I’ll be pulling the rest of it off the coop to make things from (don’t worry chickens, I have plain old fir boards to replace it). Anyway, here’s the table, which I’m quite pleased with:
Closeup of the wood:
Worky work work! In addition to all this, there are of course the daily chores such as caring for livestock, cooking, keeping the fire going, earning a living, etc…but some other farm residents have more sensible priorities; I leave you with “Snail Love”:
I lucked into a bunch of used building materials recently, thanks to a friend who is letting me salvage from a condemned house. Perfect timing, because our goat herd needs to move to the other side of the property soon. This requires the construction of a new goat house, since it will take days and days to sawzall and haul the old one.
There was a half-built shed in the yard of the doomed house that fit the bill:
It was about 8 x 10 feet, a little small for a goat house, so I dragged it home and reconfigured it to be 9 x 18 (still missing a piece here):
Then we reconsidered the location and decided the thing needs to move about 50′ to the East to line up with the new pasture areas. How does one skinny middle-aged man move this unwieldy load? Take it apart and carry the pieces over like a normal person? Nah, that would be boring; time for a little good ol’ fashioned hillbilly ingenuity! Ain’t nothin’ you can’t do with a rusty ol’ pickup!
I parked inside the structure, jacked up the legs, and placed cross pieces across the tailgate, bed, and roof of the truck, bolting them to the uprights. Here are two clips of the actual journey. (I run to and from the camera because it has very limited memory, but unfortunately it still ran out and missed recording the too-exciting bit where I “gently” lowered it to the ground.)
..and here it is at end of day, roof all framed and one panel fitted into place:
Hi. You’re probably here for pictures of cute goats.
Well, cute goats we’ve got:
…but the news these days is mostly happening in the garden.
(There will be more cute goats later, promise)
Spring dragged on cool and rainy until well into June this year. Some plants loved it, and some plants not so much (“Tomatoes looks great for early July! Too bad it’s mid-August.”)
Cabbage has been one of the happy ones:
Peas did great too – grew up over the top of the trellises, produced nicely, and helped keep us too busy to take photos of ‘em. With the difficulty of picking each pod at the perfect moment and then processing them all, one by one each plant matures a hidden pod or two and starts dying down.
In the past few years, we didn’t shell and save so many peas, instead eating most of them fresh when they were half grown. Sweet and delicious, pod and all. The plants kept producing until we got tired of picking peas, and I suspect that we had a much better labor-to-nutrients ratio that way.
We’ve dabbled in small corn plots a couple of times, in heavy clay soil with fish juice fertilizer, with unimpressive results. This year we’re trying two plots that have copious amounts of composted goat stuff worked in a foot and a half deep. This one is popcorn (name escapes me, probably heirloom):
This one is a hybrid production variety of sweet corn. Not what I’d usually grow, but someone offered me a tray of 100 five-inch-long starts and I’m sure looking forward to seeing how fast it can get from the stalk to the grill to the butter.
Both of those corn plots, assuming Summer doesn’t completely fizzle out early, should provide a few nice baskets of food, but we’re still getting a feel for growing grains so we’ve been doing small plots.
One of the grains that sounds less labor-intensive to harvest and process is amaranth, which bears its ‘fruit’ in big clusters, so we’ve planted a little experimental stand of Hopi Red Dye amaranth with tobacco bookends. It looks pretty happy:
Our buckwheat patch is somewhat smaller – one plant at the moment. I like it as a cover crop, so I’ve grown quite a bit of it, but I’ve never allowed it to grow over a foot or so before scything and composting it. This one volunteered at the end of a row…it’s a bit over five feet tall now:
AND it’s making little buckwheats!
These Calypso dry beans should produce medium-sized “yin yang” patterned beans:
Their flowers and tiny beans-to-be:
Another new one for us is sweet potatoes. This is two plants that have grown slowly but steadily for several months now without covering much area…I’ll be so happy if these work at all!
Some plants we’re feeling pretty competent with now, so we plant something approaching the amount we expect we can use. In the case of zucchini this means two bushes, but we’ve got four of them out there.
There’s a whole world under the zuke/delicata canopy:
Tomatoes do fine here, though it’s sad in the Fall because they’re quite willing to keep producing right up until the first frost strikes them down. Here’s a beautiful Brandywine, the meaty heirloom variety we like for its hardiness, flavor, and texture:
We usually try to stick to heirloom varieties that we can propagate ourselves in subsequent years, but the hybrid cherry tomatoes are kind of irresistible, and produce an amazing amount of sweet little globes in a few square feet:
Black oil sunflower seeds are a big staple food for our chickens and goats, and they produce multiple flower heads…I think I counted 9 or 10 on this stalk:
Fairy tale (miniature) eggplant, more of a late-summer treat than practical food source, but WHAT a treat they are on the grill with olive oil on top and applewood smoking them from below!
This Summer’s “Perennial plant that the chickens have failed to destroy despite their tireless efforts to dig it up” award goes to the horseradish:
Calendula growing among the cherry tomatoes:
and finally, as promised, here’s Drama Queen, who is full of little baby goats (due in about three weeks)
Filed under: General Homesteading
Wild strawberries have been fruiting for some time now, and here comes the first big domesticated one:
We're growing red Brandywine tomatoes again this year since we've had such good luck with them in the past. They are indeterminate* plants, which means that they have a vine-like growth habit and appreciate a good trellis or stake. Tired of messing with stakes and strings, I'm trying to weave these through a cattle panel for support:
These Pontiac Red potatoes are about five weeks old, and we've just put up a chicken-wire fence to help contain the mound we'll be building up over them:
Turnips, turnips, so delicious and easy to grow in our climate:
The cold frame is still booming and hasn't been covered in a month or more. The tall plant is an overwintered celery. The kale, turnips, and beets were started around January.
Tiny, tiny little apples are forming by the millions:
Tobacco took forever to sprout, then was very slow for a few weeks, but now it's exploding, and I think I'm going to have to give a bunch of starts away or just toss some in unworked soil and see what happens
Cabbages are loving the long, gentle transition from winter to summer:
No idea what this one is…it's in a patch that I occasionally hurl some cheap, outdated flower seeds into and otherwise leave alone:
* Another important feature of indeterminate tomato plants is that they bear fruit over a long period of time rather than all at once. Many people who do canning prefer determinate plants, which bear most of their fruit in one flush, but we find it easier to can frequent smaller batches.
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