Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Busy Season

Spring came in a rush this year. It seems like the bushes and trees could not flower and leaf out fast enough. If I blinked or took a break it went from an early March landscape to May. A lot of rain and warm weather has pushed our season up, but it is also causing me to get behind with a lot of garden work. The in-ground garden beds have not been dry enough to work for a couple of weeks. And I am really feeling behind in that regard.

The rest of our homestead has taken off and I am staying busy just trying to keep up with all the upkeep (and washing of the muddy clothes that goes along with the rain).

The garden I planted in January has hit its stride.

I am harvesting lettuce everyday just to keep up.

The broccoli is beginning to put out florets and my Swiss Chard has finally gotten beyond the little seedling stage. Our pea plants are looking strong. Such a beautiful green...waiting on the first flowers and then peas.

My container garden is also doing well.

I also have lots of small containers of herb seedlings that look wonderful. They should be ready for transplant when I can finally work in the garden again.

Yesterday, I was able to add three hanging grape tomato plants.

Last year I started shopping for my tomato plants too late and could not find any of the grape tomatoes we loved so much. So, when I saw these yesterday I knew I had to grab while I could. I can always find larger slicing tomatoes and romas, but these tasty little tomatoes are much rarer. They are also a staple in our pasta dishes when we have them.

When the rain comes I have been busy inside. Of course a lot of it is just trying to keep up with muddy clothes, shoes and floors, but I have been playing in the kitchen some too.

I ground my own pork to make homemade Italian Sausage. Buying a roast on sale made this treat about half of what it sales for in the grocery store and oh so good. Didn't even need a fancy grinder as my food processor worked well enough.

After successfully making sausage I had to try my hand at ground beef. Found a chuck roast on manager's special making it MUCH cheaper than ground beef prices...

We had some excellent hamburgers from this batch of ground chuck. I'll admit it was a little chunkier than store-cut ground, but still yummy.

Here is my latest project

This is a Shitake Mushroom growing kit. I am just getting it started. It had to sit in the refrigerator for 5 days and I now have to soak it in water for several hours. Then, it will sit in a corner and work for us!!! If the directions are right, we should start harvesting in about 3 weeks... Mushroom & Spinach Quiche anyone?


Monday, March 12, 2012

Two-and-a-half month garden update

Thanks to some wonderful weather we have been having there are lots of changes to our garden. I find myself adding containers of something everyday to our deck. It is a great way to test out expanding our garden and I love having my work center right outside the back door.

I've even started to add a few things around the garden beds in the summer garden. My next job is to get the fence put around the area. It is time I reclaimed that area from the hens.

On the other side of the yard the Spring garden is going great. I think the peas are growing inches a day.

The lettuce is large enough that we are already picking some of the baby leaves off for our salads. I took this picture on Saturday, but I think the garden is even more filled-in after today.

For this week, I am going to get the materials to put up some fencing (hopefully this weekend), and am going to buy a few more blueberry bushes to plant in the backyard along the fence line. I need to clean-up the front blueberry bed. They will need to be fertilized before too much longer. I'm sure I will find a bunch of other things to occupy my time...



Difference in Hen Breeds

Our first flock of hens included four different breeds out of five hens. Those five were calm, content to stay on the ground and very quiet. Our four new hens are all Rhode Island Reds, the breed I had originally decided to have. These four are very proud, strutting around and showing off their flying ability. They are also adventurous. We've had to fish them out of the woods three times already. The RIRs are also very vocal, especially after they lay an egg. We all know when they have left us an egg (which is often).

Today, following several nice days in a row, was a red-letter day. We got 9 eggs today from 9 hens!!! They were so ready to lay two were trying to share what has become the favorite box and a line was forming.

We got four eggs in a 30-minute period. These girls can produce....



Friday, March 09, 2012

New Family Members...

Last night at soccer practice we picked up 4 new family members.

The kids can tell the new ones apart and have named them. They also "banded" a leg of each hen to help with telling them apart.

We have had a bit of territoriality between the two groups, but that cleared up as the day went on. And, we had 5 eggs before lunch today!!!

I think 9 is a really good number for our space and family. It will give us enough eggs to use and some to share. The yard has enough space for them to spread out and not scratch up one area too much.

Tonight we are celebrating a bit of good news for our family with an actual steak. I'm going to give doing a "real" London Broil by cooking it in a cast iron pan.



Thursday, March 08, 2012

Local Meat Find

As I was saying last night it is becoming more important to us to eat Real Food, limiting the amount of process food that comes into the house. But, it is also important to me to eat locally as much as possible. Produce, in season is easy enough. Can't get anymore local than our backyard, and there are lots of full produce stands and farmers markets. This past summer/fall I tried to put away produce to help us through the cold months.

Meat has been the difficult part. With an already tight grocery budget it is hard to pay some of the premium prices vs. grocery store on meat. I totally understand why good local meat should be more...just hard to fit into our budget. Well, grocery store meat prices are soaring!! Our mainstay of ground beef is quickly becoming unaffordable on a regular basis.

Today we stopped by a new-ish produce market here in our town. Cute little place re-using an old '60s gas station. They have meat stocked by a local farm and imagine my surprise to see that price per pound it was almost equal to what I am finding in Food Lion or Kroger lately. We bought a lb of ground beef to try tonight. I really hope that between cutting back on our meat and not spending as much in general at the grocery store that we can afford to continue supporting local meat producers.



Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Real Food

I am excited and hopeful about this year on our little homestead. My spring garden is coming along really well. I've been going crazy planting things here and there in containers. Today I planted onion sets. I have never had onions do very well for me due to the high clay content of our soil. I figured since I am planting so many other containers this year I might give onions a try again.

Big Lots have the "Topsy Turvey" baskets marked down to $2.50 so I picked up a couple more strawberry growers. Today Emily helped me plant everbearing strawberry plants in them. We talked about all the different ways we would enjoy the fruits this summer.

With the wild swings in our weather I have to grab each nice day and spend it outside. I've started cleaning the winter mulch off the summer garden bed. If I can get another nice day tomorrow I will lay out the beds.

This is a rough idea of the garden. I'm doing more container gardening than I had originally planned.

It is one thing to grow Real Food, learning how to use them is our project when the weather isn't nice enough to be outside.

I've been wanting to make our own pasta for awhile, but have been told it was really hard to make. Especially since I don't have any equipment.

The turkey-spinach-mushroom filling was made from natural ingredients. In a few months I want to be able to say they were made from home-grown ingredients. Well, except for the turkey.
I didn't find it that difficult...though I can't really call the final product ravioli. They looked more like pasta pockets.

The kids were a little leery, but gave me a thumbs up once they bit into them. Yeah for Real Food!


A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.