Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Clean Up (part three)

I didn't take pictures again.  But, we forced the boys out the door this morning and they did great picking grapes until the first bucket was full, after that it was painful to keep them working.  We ended up with four buckets to put in the steam juicer.

While we were picking grapes, my Mister mowed the field, pulled the hoses from the big garden and stretched them out on the cement to get warm so he could coil them up and put them away, then he mowed the garden.  We didn't plow because we're not sure if we'll be able to garden there next year when the house is being built.  He did plow the neighbor's garden while I sat and visited.  Our neighbor gave us some horseradish, a huge banana squash, a turkey egg, and some walnuts.  It was a fruitful visit.  :)

Next, I wanted to get the yard mowed, so I pulled out the rotary mower and made the boys come out to rake the grass up so the mower would catch it.  It was really long and matted down, so that took awhile.

My Mister cleaned out the boat and laid the cover out to dry.  We need to cover it with a more waterproof tarp this winter so we don't get water build up inside it.  He also weed whacked around the driveway under the grapes.

Next up: making grape juice.  I also need to clean out the black raspberry patch, but I'm not sure I'm going to get to that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Clean Up (Part Two)

Saturday we had a lot of non-yard stuff to do, so we didn't get started on any of the yard work until close to 4pm.

My Mister started weed whacking around all the fruit trees while I pulled weeds from the strawberry bed, and cleared a place for garlic in another bed.  I added compost, and got nearly a pound of garlic cloves planted.  We planted Music that we ordered from my favorite seed company, Seed Savers Exchange, and covered the garlic with a thick layer of straw mulch.

Next was to weed whack all the strawberries down to nubbins and cover them with a thin layer of straw.  Next spring the plants will grow up through the mulch.  By weed whacking the plants now, the plants will be healthier and have better air circulation next spring.

We also gathered up the watering lines from the raised beds and pulled the tomato plants that don't have tomatoes on them still.

My Mister checked on the bees, and there aren't a lot of them.  He's a little concerned that last month when he cleaned out the crooked comb, he might have killed the queen.  We'll continue to watch the bees to see if their numbers continue to decrease, or if they build up again.  There were some brood cells, but not many.  Worst case, we may be buying bees again in the spring.  Hopefully we learned enough this year, that we can avoid the crooked comb in the future and don't have to do such invasive work on the hive.

My Mister shucked all the corn, and put it in a bucket in the chicken coop storage area, the birds have already eaten/scratched all of the grass in their new run area, so they'll appreciate the corn cobs to play with.

The big pumpkin is finally starting to turn orange, but I don't think it will be orange by halloween.  We'll see.

We moved the leftover hay into the chicken coop storage area, and will try to keep the kids out of it so we can use it in other areas.  I want to use it to mulch over the artichoke plant once I cut it down.  I'm still waiting for it to flower so I can collect some seeds.  If I could get five or six plants to survive a winter, we'd be pretty set for artichokes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall Clean Up (part one)

This wasn't part of fall cleanup, but I had the picture, so here it is...  I tried out a new french bread recipe and we all liked it quite a bit, plus it was less work overall than the "artisan bread in 5-minutes-a-day" recipe that I was using.  It made three pretty nice sized loaves.  

We pulled out all the corn.  The cobs that were still on the stalks we are saving to feed to the chickens.  They're mostly dried out, but the chickens don't seem to mind.  So we'll let the rest of these dry out and give them out a few at a time.  Our corn patch actually produced quite a few ears, but I never thinned it, so the ears are all tiny, and it was hard to get into it to pick much.  We also cut off the sunflower heads.  I'll save some seed to plant more next year, and the rest I think I'm going to try roasting.  If it turns out well, we'll plant them more seriously next year.

I was hoping for a better butternut squash harvest, and there were only two jarrahdale squash, but we ended up with more pumpkins than I thought we'd get, considering our watering system didn't work out quite as well as we hoped it would.  

We picked the dried beans, we'll let them finish drying out, and shell them, and save the seed for next year.  This is my first year saving bean seeds, so I'm not sure how much I need, I'll post an update when we shell them.

We cleaned all the wet, gross, smelly wood shavings out of the chicken coop and replaced them with new, clean, dry shavings.  It smells so much better in there!  We also added a roost bar to help them get to the two side nesting boxes.  They were piling up in the middle box half the time instead of going in the other two.  Silly birds.  

My Mister ran the corn stalks through the chipper, and we added that, and the poo/shavings from the chicken coop to the big pile of grass (from when we mowed the field and RAKED THE WHOLE THING (that was fun).  Now we just need a rain to moisten the whole thing and it will really get hot.  There is already some nice compost in the bottom from just the grass.

Here's a before shot of where the chicken run used to be:

And here's where it is now- we moved the run and the little feeding area lean-to so that the chickens could scratch a new area, the whole thing was getting stinky, so hopefully some fresh land helps, and lets the old area recover a little.  In the spring we can move them back

I left two pumpkins in the garden since they were still green.  A smaller one, and then this HUGE one.  I  don't think it will turn orange in time for halloween, but I'm hoping we can get it pureed and in the freezer.  

Things to do another weekend:  
Weed whack strawberries, and cover with mulch 
Clean out raised beds
Save seeds from artichoke plants (if the things would ever flower!)
Pull the last of the onions
Put away watering system tubes
Prep and plant garlic bed
Clear out blackcap bed, and add compost
Pick grapes and do grape juice
Check bees 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage

Inspired by our recent trip up to Park City, and our dinner at The Farm, My Mister and I decided to branch out a bit from our regular meals, and try some new recipes using food from our garden.  (The Farm uses mostly local ingredients.)  I found the recipe at and made a few changes based on what we had available and what sounded good.  It turned out really well, so we'll probably make this one again.  CP loved it and gobbled it up, A and J weren't fans of the squash, but ate it without too much coercing.  The squash and onion came from our garden.  See the link for the original recipe, below I've written it based on the changes we made.

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Butternut Squash cubed and peeled
1 Large Onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 box rotini pasta (14.5 oz)
1/2 lb hot italian sausage (we used buffalo, but pork or turkey would work well too)
1 TBSP flour
1/2 C milk
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a glass oven safe dish with the olive oil. Place the squash and onion in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Roast 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. (Don't overcook the squash or it will be mushy, ours was perfect right at 30 minutes)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place pasta in the pot, cook for 8 minutes, until al dente, and drain.

 In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until evenly brown.  Mix in the flour and garlic. Transfer the cooked squash and onion to the skillet.  Pour in the milk.  Continue cooking until heated through and milk thickens slightly. Gently mix in the pasta. Transfer to a large bowl, and toss with balsamic vinegar to serve.

Top with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thanks again to Home Storage Skills for the idea.  I washed and quartered the pears (and I took the stems off since stems in grape juice does affect the flavor of the juice), and cooked them for 2 hours in my steam juicer.  With grapes 2 hours gets jut about all the juice out, but the pears had hardly cooked down at all.  I could have given them another hour, but I decided to call it good.  I didn't want to cook so much of the juice out that the sauce had no flavor left.  After they cooled a bit in the juicer, I scooped everything into the strainer, and ended up with 4 quarts of juice (plus a little that we drank already- it's delicious) and 6 quarts of sauce- which is still on the runny side.  I really probably should have cooked the pears for another hour in the juicer.  The sauce was still plenty sweet.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Things I've been doing

While playing out in the yard, I discovered a few HUGE peaches (I posted a picture in an earlier post), we canned those and got one canner full of quart jars.  Not a lot, but it's more than we had before.

I also discovered that the apple trees had a few apples on them.  My Mister picked them and we had a bucket full.  Most of them had some bad spots to cut out, but after all that we still ended up with 6 quarts of applesauce.

I've been dehydrating more plums, and made a batch of plum/pear jam.  It looks just like the plum jam, but you can taste the pear in it.  I like it, but I don't love it so much that I think it's a good use of my small supply of pears.

I attempted pear sauce in the victorio strainer, but ended up with a slightly thicker juice.  Not quite what I was hoping for.  Searching online revealed the best way to make pear sauce is to peel and chop the pears, then cook them down.  Pear sauce was my idea to avoid having to peel them (otherwise I would have just canned the pears).  Now I'll either can the rest, or dehydrate them.  I'm looking for the easiest option here, since I'm running out of time before the great grape deluge of 2011 kicks in.

When I was picking the pears, I was trying to think of a way to store them so they didn't bruise while they were ripening, and I thought of these cardboard crates the raspberries came in.  They worked great. I just wish I had twice as many.  If you have any, or ever get any, save them for me!  They're not quite big enough for storing winter squash in, so I'll have to think of something else to use them for over the winter, so that I don't have to justify the space they'd take up sitting empty somewhere.

UPDATE:  Thanks to the powers of Google, I discovered this blog post that talks about juicing pears in a steam juicer and canning the juice, then running the pulp through the strainer for the sauce.  My only concern is that with the juice removed, the pulp will be bland, but I think if I don't cook the pears until there is no juice left, it should work out well.

While picking pears, I noticed that the old "weed" rosebushes are covered in rose hips.  I've been reading up on rose hips and am currently deciding what to do with them, they're not ready yet, so I have some time.  I have fond memories of eating rose hips while sitting on the roof of the old grainery that used to be behind our family home.

As far as a new camera goes, I've been holding off.  I do have my iphone that can take pictures, but I'm currently trying to decide whether I want a fancy camera or if a point and shoot will serve my purposes...