Garden Spider
Garden Spider

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.

One of the two egg sacks
One of the 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.

Highbush Cranberries
Highbush Cranberries

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.

Peppers in the greenhouse
Peppers in the greenhouse

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.



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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.





Well, it is finally here....Fall.  We had our first hard frost last week where it hit 24 degrees and we have had frost every morning since with the exception of the morning it rained.  Fortunately it is getting into the 50s during the day which is really nice if it is not too windy.  So the woodstove has been keeping us cozy on these chilly nights.  My husband is happy to see the frost come since it pretty much eliminates the pollen that causes his allergies.

Fall is a busy time on the homestead there are so many things that need to be done before the days do not get out of freezing temperatures and the snow flies.  This week the pigs will go to the butcher and we will be butchering the final batch of broilers for the freezer.  The pigs have grown very well and we feel blessed that our freezers will be full before winter.

We will have a good amount of pork this year and I think I will can some of it for instant meals.  Rich meats like pork and lamb when canned almost make their own gravy and are delicious in soups and stews.  I confess that sometimes I make a quick soup or stew when I get home from work by using one jar of canned meat, a jar of canned broth and one bag of frozen mixed vegetables.  This cooks up in less than 30 minutes and I can flavor it with the dried herbs and spices that I want.  I may also throw a batch of biscuits in the oven or toast up some sourdough bread and have one great comfort food meal.

We got 10 heads of cabbage out of the garden and so there will be a couple of large jars of sauerkraut fermenting in the very near future.  I will be adding just a little bit of purple cabbage from our last CSA pick up to our green cabbage and the sauerkraut turns out to be the most beautiful shade of pink.  To some that may sound weird but it doesn't change the taste at all.

Of course after the pigs and chickens are processed we have to clean out their pens and get those areas clean and dry for winter.  The pastured poultry electric net fence will have to be rolled up and stored for next year.  That was a investment that needs to be taken care of but it worked really well being able to move the pastured chickens several times during the season.

The fall weather gets me is a baking mood too.  I made my first apple pie with apples from the orchard that we picked up last week.  There is nothing better than a hot slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on a chilly evening.  Unless it might be hot spiced apple cider which is one of my favorites.

Well, so much for talking about what needs to be done, time to get to it.  I'll visit with all of you soon.





New Breed?
New Breed?

Our first try at Red Ranger chickens for meat has been a success.  We butchered our first group and of the 40 we ordered we had 36 go to butcher.  That is a loss of only 10% unlike last year when we had a terrible time with the Cornish Rock and a huge loss.  We also got two of the above with our chick order of Red Rangers.  They look like a cross between a Ranger and Cornish but I am not sure.  I'm going to send some pictures to the hatchery and see what they have to tell me.  These actually raised up very well.  Those are some of my new Americana laying hens in the back ground.  They are three months old now so hopefully they will begin laying eggs in October or so.

We took a week of vacation to take care of many things on the farm including the butchering.  Fun things like having the septic tank pumped, cutting wood, chipping wood for mulch and getting ready for the next round of poultry.  The baby turkeys and more Red Rangers arrived at the end of the week.

After a morning of butchering the chickens need to cool for 24 hours before being vacuum sealed and put in the freezer.  For the first time ever we kept one fresh for us to eat.  I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens for a brine and it was fantastic.  I don't normally read BH&G but it came in the mail to me because I purchased some other item.

Grilled Feta-Brined Chicken

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (I used a whole cut up bone in chicken)
  • 1 large lemon, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a blender combine water, feta, oregano, salt and cracked black pepper.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Place chicken in zipper plastic bag or container.  Pour feta mixture over chicken; seal or cover.  Chill 8 hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from brine; transfer to a towel-lined tray.  Discard brine.  Pat chicken dry.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Grill chicken on the rack over a covered grill over medium heat 12-15 minutes (longer if you use whole bone in chicken) until interior temperature reaches 170 degrees, turning once.

Transfer chicken to a platter.  Squeeze lemon over.  Drizzle with oil.  You can top with additional crumbled feta if desired but it was great without it.

Dinner was wonderful and it is so nice knowing where your meat comes from, what it has been eating and the fact that the chickens lead a happy life while they were with us.

So in 12 weeks or so we will do it all over again with our second batch of pastured meat birds.  This is the first year that we have done two batches but now that we have a separate building and the movable fencing we have the room.

Our next project will be getting a out door run for the turkeys built.  We are having some fill brought in to level out an area next to the barn that we can make a outside area for them.  I'm not sure it will get finished this year but oh well, there is only so much time in a day.


Have a Blessed Thanksgiving
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving

Well, we had our first snowfall of the year on November 1st and it was a doozy.  It started during the overnight and just kept snowing all day Sunday.  When it was over we had somewhere between 12 and 15 inches of heavy wet stuff.  It was hard to tell because besides the heavy snow the wind blew really hard.  There were times during the day Sunday that I looked out the window and the snow was falling sideways.  Our power went out around 2:00 Sunday afternoon.  Thank the Lord for the generator and that we have extra fuel.  Since the ground was not frozen yet we could not plow for fear of digging up the ground.  My wonderful husband used the bucked on the tractor to back drag it in critical areas so that we could get around in our vehicles.  Besides our long 440+ foot driveway we plow out our Uncle who lives next door and Mom and Dad who live a 1/4 mile down the road.

Life goes on and we ran the generator in the mornings and evenings to get showers, animals fed and watered and to catch the news.  Both my husband and I went to work as usual.  I never lost power at my work and my husband has a generator where he works so we were all set.  Finally Tuesday mid afternoon the power came back on.

Fortunately, the weather warmed back up for a little bit.  Enough to melt off the rest of the snow except where it had been piled up.  It has now gotten cold again and we had another couple of inches of snow on Thursday into Friday.  Not much over 35 degrees here today but the chores must go on.

The pigs went to the butcher at the end of October but the turkeys have another week before their time so cleaning had to be done.  Wrapped warmly my husband and I cleaned out the turkey pen and put down fresh bedding for them.  We have had to shut off the automatic water system to barn as we do each fall so now we have waters with heaters under them for the poultry.  Right now we can still use the outside faucet to fill the waters but soon it will be too cold for that and we will be using gallon jugs filled in the house to haul water.

I also got 34 pints of applesauce made and canned last week.  The house smells so much like fall when applesauce is being made.  There is a fresh batch of yogurt incubating right now.  Made with fresh milk with the cream still on top.  This yogurt comes out the consistency of greek yogurt without even taking any of the whey out.

I would like to with everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving may you be blessed to spend it with family and friends.

Part of the Family
Part of the Family
Best Friends
Best Friends