I know it has been a very long time since I've written. Sometimes that happens in life. Circumstances change in our lives that don't allow us to keep up with some things, this blog being one for me.
I thought I would just give you a quick "hi" and update from the homestead. The biggest event for our family this summer has been the marriage of our son. We have been so blessed with a wonderful daughter in law. We spent a great week in Dallas, TX with family and new friends.
Meanwhile on the homestead, early summer was marked by the arrival of our first batch of baby chicks. These are our broilers at about two weeks old. They were put out on grass and butchered at 12 weeks old. Our new batch of hens arrived with these in April and this year are Buff Orpingtons. The second batch of chicks arrived in early August after returning from the wedding. This shipment included a second batch of Red Ranger broilers and our turkeys.
This is a year for raising pigs. We only do it every two years because as I have mentioned before pigs do much better when there are two or more. Since we can only consume about one per year we raise a couple every two years. This year we have three we are raising.
I did not have time to plant a full scale garden this year but did a few peppers and tomatoes in the greenhouse as well as some squash in a pot by the front porch. This is the first year we actually have fruit on one of our apple trees, we are so excited about this. Our pear tree is doing amazing and I am going to have to thin the fruit in order to keep the branches from breaking. The pigs will enjoy the thinned fruit as a treat.
I can't wait to harvest and can these pears. They sure taste good in the dead of winter along with apple sauce and pork chops!!
One other blessing on the homestead is that we discovered some Lady Slippers on the property. We are now going to take much care around that area in hopes that they will return for us to enjoy again next year.
A funny site would have been seen if you would have arrived at our homestead on the day of the eclipse. Because we are so far north we only has a little over 50% coverage so it was not really noticeable as far as it getting dark. So out in our driveway was myself, my husband and my dear mother in law passing around the two welding helmets that we have watching the eclipse. God's creation is absolutely amazing.
I hope this summer has been a blessing for you and your family as it has been for mine. Enjoy the fall and I hope I can get back with you soon.
I was looking in my bread box and realized that I had bits and pieces of different breads that would only be suitable as chicken food in a day or two. What could I make to use them up? I looked through a couple of my cookbooks and found a recipe for Baked French Toast in The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays. As usual I adapted the recipe to what I had available. So what I had was leftover heals, a couple of hamburger buns and I think even a little bit of corn bread I had made to go with some pea soup we had. Every time you make this it will be a little bit different because of the breads you use and the additional things you decide to add.
Let me state that you need to make this ahead of time, preferably the night before. The bread needs time to soak up all the yummy egg and milk mixture before it is baked. This is great if you are having company or need to get out of the house for some reason in the morning. You just pull the bake out of the refrigerator and bake it while you are doing other things.
First you will tear all your leftover bread into bite size chunks. If you want to be fancy you can cut them but I like the more rustic look of the torn bread. Chose a baking dish that will hold all of the bread. The recipe works best for a 13 x 9 inch dish so make sure you have enough bread to fill it.
As you can see from the picture I have added things to my bread but that is purely optional. Here I have added dried cranberries and some chopped pecans. Diced apples, raisins, chopped walnuts, or just about anything that your family likes work well as additions to this dish.
Next you will want to make the egg custard mixture.
This is where I referred to Ree's recipe for the ratios on the milk and eggs. As the note implies you are making a sort of custard mixture with eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. I have also added cinnamon and nutmeg to my mixture because that is the traditional french toast flavors for my family.
Once the custard mix is poured over the bread mix the whole thing needs to be refrigerated, as I said, preferably overnight. Make sure to cover it for this part.
Here is the full recipe as I made it this time. Like I said it is different every time I make it. It is also really good with blueberries in the bread and blueberry syrup over the top to serve.
1Loaf or leftover pieces of bread (firmer varieties work better but any is good)
8Eggs (farm fresh are best)
2 1/2Cups whole milk
Additional dried or fresh fruit and nuts to taste
Tear bread into chunks into a bowl. Add any additions of fruit, nuts etc to the bread. Gently fold together so you don't break up the bread pieces. Put pieces into well buttered 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
In a bowl put the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Whisk very well until everything is incorporated. Gently pour over bread in baking dish.
Cover baking dish and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours but better if overnight.
When ready to bake remove baking dish from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour. The longer you bake it the crispier it will get.
Serve with butter and warmed maple syrup. You might also like to serve with a fruit syrup if your family enjoys that. It is nice to have some sausage, ham or bacon as a side.
I hope you enjoy this little taste of heaven using some of your "going stale" bread. There is not a picture of this baked because the house smells so good when it is baking that I couldn't keep from diving into it.
I'm sitting here with a cup of Chai Tea and it looks like we had another dusting of snow last night. We have had several snow storms followed by rain followed by sleet and then snow again. It has made for a icy driveway but after a couple of warm days things are improving. Let's just say that the grippers (for those not in snow/ice country they are spikes that you put on your shoes) are staying on for awhile. The last thing I want to do is end up falling on my way to the barn.
There have been several little projects that have been completed over the last couple of months.
My sweet husband and I have a tradition of going to the apple orchard late in the fall. We wait until there has been at least one frost because the apples seem to be better then. We have several apple trees planted here on the homestead but they are not producing fruit yet so we give a local grower our business. We eat many of the apples fresh and I make a pie or two and of course apple crisp but canning applesauce to have the rest of the year is the biggest thing. There is nothing like some of our home raised pork with applesauce for dinner on a cold winter evening.
After Thanksgiving my husband strips the bird and we put the bones in a huge pot on the wood stove to simmer for several hours. I get the pot up to temperature on the gas stove then transfer it to a trivet on the wood stove where it will sit and get happy. I then can the rich broth to use all winter as a base for soups and stews. If you don't can please make broth anyway and freeze it. Homemade is so much better than what you can buy in the store. I can mine with no salt so I can season each soup or stew that I make with it to my liking. I make broth every time I make chicken too. This yields just enough broth of one batch of soup. Usually I end up making my Tortilla Soup with that since it also uses the left over chicken in it. I'll give you that recipe in another post.
I had been collecting juice from a triple berry mix (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries) for several months and freezing it. Now it was time to make jelly with it. Earlier I had made a delicious apple pie jam that I found a recipe for. It is low in sugar so the flavor of the apples really comes out. I also made a jam with my ground cherries. I just used the recipe in the box of pectin for berry jam.
After I finished the Triple Berry Jam I canned it is 4 oz. jelly jars and created a cute label for the top. These became Christmas gifts added to bags with home made fudge and cereal mix. It is so fun to make and give gifts from your kitchen.
My husband and I have been talking about a big project for next summer. We do not have a basement therefore not a root cellar or any real cold storage space. I use our spare room for our pantry and in the winter with the door closed it is really cool but that is not the case in the summer. Summer and fall are our times when the cold storage is really needed especially when we butcher and process our poultry. For years we have put them in big bins with ice but when you are processing close to 50 birds that is a lot of ice. So we are looking into building a cold room.
The Ripley's, the young couple that we get our CSA from at Ripley Farm, have one for their produce so we started to do some research. Come to find out the company that makes the device that turns a regular window air conditioner into one that will keep a room at around 40 degrees, CoolBot, has plans for building the rooms right on their website. This might be a multi year project since we will have concrete poured for the foundation and then build the room. We are planning on attaching it to the back of the garage so we can enter it from inside the garage. No outside entrance means we don't have to keep the snow shoveled from in front of the door.
Not only are we planning to use it for the keeping our meat cool during processing but we want to make it into a year round cold storage where the canned goods and root cellar items could be stored. The room will be super insulated and will be located where there will not be too much direct sun hitting it so our hope is that except for when we have meat cooling we will have to turn on the air conditioner very little. There may also need to be a small heating element during the winter so that stored food does not freeze during the winter. I'll try to keep you updated at things progress.
It has been nice getting updated. I know the posts have not been very regular lately. Between my and my husband's crazy schedule it has been a challenge. I hope to be better in this new year of 2017.
Okay, so I'm not a real fan of spiders but since it is the month of Halloween I thought I'd show you a picture of one that made itself at home on the outside of my greenhouse late August and into September. It actually produced two egg sacks.
I looked up what type of spider it was because to tell you the truth, it was pretty big and as I said before I don't really like spiders. I didn't do much research other than to learn that they are fairly common here in Maine and hopefully she was eating a lot of mosquitoes. It is so magnificent though how God put the big "face" on the back of the spider to scare away predators.
I know it has been a long time since I have added a post. I apologize. Since it has been a couple of months I thought we could revisit some of the plants from the last post just to see the progression of the growing season with the perennials and some other plants around the homestead.
Here is our lilac plant, as you can see it has gone to seed. I think it is pretty in it's own right at this stage. There is just not the heavy perfume in the air as with this plant in the spring. Even though there is no food produced for us from this plant it is one of the first to bloom in the spring and therefore it provided food for our bees as well as the butterflies and other insects. I actually couldn't imagine a homestead without this very old and traditional plant if you can grow it in your area. If you ever visit a old homestead site you might find just the remains of the foundation of the house but you will find the lilac and asparagus patch still growing, amazing.
The raspberries were all picked, although it wasn't a very big crop, we had enough to eat fresh. I really need to move the bushes to a sunnier spot but I haven't figured out where that will be just yet.
The highbush cranberries have all matured. I waited until after the first frost to pick them. They are in my refrigerator now as I try to figure out what to do with them. Highbush are not exactly the same as the lowbush variety that are grown in bogs and we see made into commercial cranberry sauce. Although I think that is what I am going to do with my harvest. I'm going to look for recipes and see what might be fun to make for Thanksgiving.
We got a really great harvest from our grape vine in the front yard. Since I didn't have time to process the grapes we picked them by the cluster and put the clusters directly into freezer bags. Later this fall or during the winter when I have less outside things that need to be done I will extract the juice and make grape jelly with it. This is the first real harvest that we have taken from the grapes. Since we fenced in the front yard the chickens do not get to eat all of them. I'm looking forward to fresh baked bread toasted with grape jelly this winter. Yum!!!
The elderberry are such a beautiful color when ripe. There were only a few clusters on the plant this year and I really didn't know when to harvest and before I got to it the berries matured and fell to the ground. Then I discovered on the side of our driveway a huge wild elderberry plant. It's funny but the plant has been there for years and I didn't know what it was until I compared it with the one planted in the yard. I had read that wild elderberry grew in our area but I hadn't paid too much attention to the plant other than the fact that it had pretty white flowers on it in the spring. I don't think I even noticed the berries in the fall. So even though we had berries I didn't get any harvested this year. My plan for next year is to dry the berries and have them on hand to make a syrup for general health and to ward off the nasties that can come about during the winter. I'll let you know more when I do that.
We had a wonderful harvest of our blueberries again this year. We picked every few days for a couple of weeks to pick as they ripened. I put them in the freezer to use as needed for various baking projects. I like to spread them out on cookie sheets and freeze them before putting them into the freezer bags. This keeps them from sticking to each other which allows me to take out just the amount that I need for my recipe.
The strawberries, on the other hand, were terrible this year. It was mostly because I didn't get time to weed them and the weeds won. This is one part of the perennial front yard that I am going to have to revamp. Since I really don't have time to weed a bunch of planting beds I'm going to have to figure out how to keep the strawberries from getting invaded. The best way for this is mulching. I have though about using a weed block product but because of the shape of the beds that I build that would be difficult. I think I am going to reshape the beds to make them more rectangular rather that the curved beds they are now. I also need to revisit the border for the beds. Right now they are bordered with stone which is abundant on the homestead. The problem with stone is that weeds can grow up between them and they are hard to control. I need something more definitive and straight that I can use a week wacker or mower on the outside of to control those weeds. I think I will just go with typical raised planting beds using wood. Just one of the lessons learned.
So, my pepper plants love the greenhouse. I have never been able to get peppers to mature for me outside. I know many gardeners here in Maine do but I never could. this year my plants have gotten 2-3 feet high and I have a lot of peppers. They are actually still growing since I am closing the door at night. We have gotten a couple of very light frosts but the greenhouse is enough to protect the peppers from that. I am going to harvest soon. Now that I have a good harvest, what to do with the peppers? Some of the hot peppers will get canned to use on nachos and in my Mexican and Southwest cooking. The sweet peppers I am going to dehydrate so I can throw some into soups and stews during the winter. Finally the Anaheim peppers will get roasted before they get canned. If you have ever bought the little can of green chilies in the store that is what they are, roasted canned Anaheim peppers. It is going to be so fun to have all these to use this year.
Here are some of the other things that have happened since we last talked. Our new batch of laying hens have begun to lay very cute little eggs.
They are small at first and over the next couple of months they will get up to regular size.
Our turkeys are growing well. We have put them out on grass for the first time this year. It seems to be working out great. They love to eat the green grass and seeds that they find and I know it has cut down on the amount of feed thet we are buying for them. We will be moving them into the barn soon though because the house that we are putting them in at night is getting to small for them now that they are getting so big.
Our beautiful German Shepherd Zoe had to have surgery. She tore a ligament in her back leg and it had to be replaced. Absolutely amazing that they can do that. Our vet, Dr Nesin is wonderful and he took such good care of her. She is doing very well and will have her stitches out next week.
Well, I better get to my chores, need to do dishes, hang out some laundry and muck out the turkey house.
There are so many advantages to having perennials as part of your plantings. We have many different perennials as part of our yard and homestead.
The majority of what we grow are either a food or medicinal source. Although I am still studying and learning about the medicinals I have planted elderberry because everything I have read says it is an amazing plant. Even if you are not sure just what you are going to do with a medicinal perennial, if you are interested get it planted. It takes a few seasons for most perennials to get fully established so that you have a harvest so the sooner you get them planted the sooner you will have fruit.
Not only do we plant for fruit and medicine we also plant for pollinators. It is important to attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to your home and garden. When the lilac blooms in spring there are many insects that flock to it including the swallowtail butterfly you see in the picture above. This one is planted right next to our screened porch and the fragrance is so enjoyable when we can begin to sit outside in the warmer weather.
Our front yard, if you want to call it that, is fenced in to help protect the bee hives. It is a fairly small area but it is packed with perennials. It measures around 90 by 40 feet inside the fence. It contains our two bee hives and a 6 by 8 foot greenhouse. The north side of the yard is made up of the side of the house and the screened porch. Along the east side is another fenced area that is the yard for our dogs. Planted along that fence are raspberries. They do a great job of covering up the wire fence. There are only about 8 plants but it is enough for us to enjoy fresh berries during the summer. I also use the berries to flavor my kombucha.
In a raised bed in front of the screened porch I have planted four highbush cranberries. This will be the first year that we get a harvest. It may not be much but it will be fun to cook with then. I'm thinking about a cranberry apple pie in the fall, yum. Cranberries are very good for you also with lots of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Along the house on the north side of the yard facing south is my herb garden. It has been pretty much over run with oregano that was planted more than 15 years ago in the corner. So far I have managed to keep it at bay from a section where I have planted dill, cilantro, lemon balm, thyme, chives, cat mint and several others. I buried tires and planted the mint family members in those hoping to keep them in check. At the north west corner against the fence and house is my grapevine. This has been planted for at least 10 years but was just left to go where it wanted without any kind of support until we put the yard fence up. At that time, a couple of years ago, I put up the trellis wire on the house to encourage it to climb up those. It has also climbed down the west side fence. It is very attractive and the chickens hang out on the outside of the fence under the leaves in the shade.
Further down the west fence are planted elderberry, Naking cherries and June berries. These plants are just getting established with this being only their second or third summer. I'm still researching the various uses for these plants.
Along the south fence is our blueberry patch. We have 6 highbush plants in a planting bed. We save our coffee grounds and spread them on the bead every few months. From the look of the plants it is going to be another great blueberry harvest this year. Next to the blueberries are the two bee hives.
Now the center of this oasis. There are four planting beds outlined with rocks in the center of the yard. Two have strawberries in them and two have asparagus. The first bed to go in was one of the asparagus. It was planted around 6 years ago before the yard was fenced. Since then I have planted a second bed just because we love it both steamed and raw in salads.
The other two beds are for strawberries. Unfortunately one of the beds got over run by weeds which killed the strawberries. I have since weeded that bed, put in weed block fabric and planted more strawberries but they did not grow. I will mulch this bed for the rest of the season and begin again next year with new strawberries.
My second bed has become a bit weedy also but I'm working on getting them out of there before they choke out my other strawberries. These plants are putting on berries and I'm going to be able to pick some very soon.
The small greenhouse is directly north of the strawberry and asparagus beds with a walkway from the screened porch to the gate north of that. I have finally gotten the greenhouse planted with peppers and ground cherries. I'm hoping that the little extra heat in the green house will be enough that I can finally harvest some peppers this year. I have both sweet and hot peppers planted and have the door and vents open so as not to overheat the space. I am watering everyday since the extra heat seems to dry out the soil quickly and I really want these plants to do well.
In the corner between the house and screened porch I have a Witch Hazel tree that has been there since the mid 1990s. It was one of the first perennials planted after the small addition on the house was finished. The tiny flowers that you can harvest in the fall have many uses. You can make a astringent from the leaves and bark too.
Finally, back to the pollinator attractors. In amongst all the edible perennials are some perennial flowers. Besides lilac there are also three peonies, a bed of dianthus of various colors, which my husband loves, and climbing lonicera, a variety of a honeysuckle. The lonicera climbs up the west side of the screened porch to help shade the area.
Most perennials require little care once they are planted and established. Some, like the dianthus, peonies, herbs and strawberries die all the way back in the winter and spring up from the ground in the spring. Others, like the cranberries, blueberries and elderberries, their leaves change colors and fall with the season and you have beautiful stem structures throughout the winter.
Please consider adding perennials to your yard whether is be in the city or country. There is nothing better than enjoying and harvesting year after year.