Frozen drops on the trees

I am not one for making resolutions for the new year but every homesteader has a list of things they want to accomplish for the next year.  We are no exception.

I have already ordered the fruit trees that I will pick up at Fedco in April.  This year I have only ordered a couple of replacement trees for ones that we have lost along the way.  Our orchard is about as big as we want with around 14-15 trees.  We have planted apples, plums, cherries, pears and apricots.  Of course we have our perennial bushes too.

There is a inside project that I would like to start work on this winter.  It entails putting a wall up in the kitchen to create a butler's pantry.  That is the easy part.  I will have to empty a bunch of cabinets and store those things until the project is finished.  It also involves moving the refrigerator to a new wall and my hubby redoing the plumbing to the ice maker.  Once it it finished I will have somewhere to have all my appliances out and ready to use without clogging up the visible kitchen counters.  I'll keep you up to date as this project proceeds.

Garden planning also happens during the winter.  I got my first seed catalog almost a month ago.  Since I now have the greenhouse that will change a few things. Speaking of the greenhouse here is a picture of my sweet Zoe sitting in front of it's frosty side.  She always goes outside with me.


It will take a little work to get the greenhouse ready for planting.  I still have to dig up the existing ground and put in good soil.  Right now I'm planning on trying peppers there this next growing season.  I have great luck with getting the pepper plants started from seed but I just don't seem to be able to get many peppers.  My hope is that the extra heat created by the greenhouse will give them the boost they need.

Every year I look to improve my gardening.  I seem to have a knack for raising livestock but gardening is a different matter.  I think my biggest problem is neglect once I get things planted.  Time in the summer just seems to go by so fast and the weeds always get ahead of me.  I have started using mulch which has helped greatly.  Come this summer I am going to give landscape cloth a try under the mulch.  I have built three raised beds so I do not till the garden anymore.  Not tilling each year keeps the soil healthier and allows all the good creatures in the soil to flourish with only minimal disturbance.  I have enough materials for one more raised bed and my goal is to get that built this spring.  The beds are 20 x 3 feet so I can easily reach from each side.  There is a path between each bed.  It is surprising how much you can plant in this space.

We will not be raising pigs this next summer.  We usually raise several every other year.  Pigs do so much better if they have friends to hang out with so instead of doing one each year we raise them every other year.  The pastured poultry worked very well last year and we will continue that this coming summer.  If I get adventurous I will even try the incubator to hatch some ourselves.  And, of course, the baby turkeys will arrive in July as usual.

Asparagus berries
Asparagus berries

Our perennial beds will continue to prosper with care.  We have our 100 strawberry plants and our two asparagus beds doing well.  Those will both take a little work in the spring to pull out weeds, fertilize, and mulch.  We were truly amazed at the amount of strawberries we harvested this last summer.  I'm thinking I would like to experiment with fermenting some of the asparagus.  We like it pickled so why not.  I want to see if it will stay crisper that way.

The big outside project for this summer will be mixing and pouring a slab for our generator room.  Currently the generator is in the garage but we would like a dedicated spot outside the garage proper. The plan is to add a room to the garage just for the generator and the fuel tank.  I'm not great with cement but I have seen many projects where homeowners have poured slabs in sections as they had time/money to do it.  We will be looking for a electric or gas mixer to purchase before we start the project.  I can already name 2-3 other projects that we would use it for besides the generator room.

Wow, this sounds like a lot of stuff to get done in one short year.  No matter, we will get the projects done that we do but you have to start with some kind of a plan. Whichever of these projects that we get done they will be an improvement to things here at the homestead. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to all of them.  It is so satisfying to make things better and knowing that you have done it yourself and with the help of friends and family.

May the new year bring inspiration to you and your family.



Nest awaiting spring
Nest in Beech tree awaiting spring

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We raise the majority of our meat here on the homestead.  Since we don't raise beef we use ground pork and ground turkey when cooking calls for ground meat. The pork is all ground and packaged for the freezer when it comes home from the butcher but not so for the turkey.  They arrive back on the homestead as whole birds.  From there I need to process them into ground meat.  Actually I cut the breasts off and then into two roasts and the rest of the bird is made into ground turkey.

The legs and wings are cut from the body followed by the side breasts.  The skin is removed from the breasts then They are cut in half or sometimes thirds depending on the size of the turkey.  Each breast roast is then vacuum sealed, labeled and dated.  Then the real work begins. I remove all the meat that I can from the carcass then each leg quarter is skinned before separating the pieces.  I find it is easier to skin the whole leg quarter then each individual piece.  After cutting the leg quarter apart the deboning begins.  The thigh is a piece of cake but the leg takes a little more precision.  With all the sinew and small bones it is important that you use a sharp knife.  I actually use my paring knife freshly sharpened by my husband.  I find that the short sharp blade is good for cutting around all the small bones and sinew of the leg.

Once you get all the leg quarter meat off it is time to move on to the wings.  Again, I skin them with all three joints in place.  However, I only skin to the first joint.  The wing tip is then removed and ready for the broth pot.  The second section is really hard to skin so I leave it whole and save it to make monster buffalo wings later.  I then debone the the largest part (closest to the body) of the wing.

As you can see there is quite a bit of meat left despite my sharp little knife.  This along with the carcass can be roasted then simmered to make a wonderful turkey broth that is canned.  I use this broth all year for soup and stew bases.

All the meat that has been cut off the bones is cut into chunks that will fit into my grinder's feeder tube.  As I think I mentioned in a previous post we use a stand alone electric grinder since we do a lot of meat grinding.  I wore out two grinding attachments for my KitchenAid mixer before we purchased this one.

I use a #12 grinding disc for the turkey meat.  It is not as fine as I would use for beef but it dose not turn the more delicate turkey into mush either.

Before I package the ground meat I mix it up with a spoon to get the white and dark meat evenly distributed so each package will have some of both.  I use my Food Saver to vacuum seal all our meat.  This makes it last longer in the freezer.  As you probably know air is the enemy of anything frozen.  Taking all the air out prevents freezer burn and the nasty taste it imparts to your food.

Food Saver vacuum sealer
Food Saver vacuum sealer

Ground meat is packaged in one pound portions and sealed, labeled and dated.  It takes me around 45 minutes to do one bird and depending on the size of the turkey it yields between 5 and 8 pounds of ground meat and 5-10 pounds of breast meat.


Packaged for freezer
Packaged for freezer

This is the reward for hard work, well actually the big reward is when we eat it.  You can see from the marking on the front ground package that sometimes the last bit vacuum sealed is not a full pound but I just mark it as it weighs and then when I need a small amount or extra for a recipe I'll use that package.

Be sure to check back next week.  I'm going to share one of my ground turkey recipes with you, Enchilada Bake.  I promise it is easy and yummy.