We've been having the most incredibly beautiful, warm, sunny, summertime, weather. I've been outside as much as I can soaking it all up. Can you believe I even ate a ripe tomato off of one of my plants that I started by seed, a big deal for me, since it's the first one in 2 years. Last year none of my tomatoes ripened it was so cold. Every few days I've been watering, and my squashes will be ready to begin picking any day, I have Sunburst patty pan, Zuccini, Rhonde de nice, and Delicata squashes I planted, the pickles are ripening and the basil is growing.
Today I was outside picking the last of the black currents and gooseberries, I've been freezing most of the berries I pick, and when the kids go back to school, I'll make the preserves and jams. I also harvested 5 large cabbages today and will make the first batch of sauerkraut, I still have many more to harvest, and will turn most of it into sauerkraut and kimchee. I like fresh cabbage this time of year to make coleslaw, and to put in soups and salads, and we've been eating lots of broccoli, kohlrabi and kale. This is our most abundant time of year, we have been eating from the garden almost everyday for most of the summer, but now more than ever, plus we'll have many things that will go all the way to late October.
It's that time of year again, that we've been school shopping for the kids and getting them all ready to go back to school. They've been having fun this summer just hanging out being kids, and now it's almost time to get back into the school routine. We're planning to go to the river a couple times in the next week to swim and pick blackberries, by the end of August the river slows down and is safe for the kids to swim and play in it. This time of year they're all wondering who their teachers will be and who will be in their classes.
We went to the Evergreen State Fair on Thursday, which lucky for us is right in our own town. This is truly a country fair, with lots of horse events, logging, rides, and local judging of jams, baking, produce, artisan brews, quilts, paintings, photos and lots more. It was fun to walk around and see all the animals, crafts and booths that were set up, the local granges set up the most amazing displays of garden produce and canning that you can imagine. Of course I had to go look at the goats, and rabbits, and I thought our goats were more beautiful than any I saw there, not that I'm prejudice or anything. We also watched a couple of the 4h goat shows. Then Tessa and Jarin watched the bubble gum blowing contest while Kaley and I ran around looking at the baked goods on display and some of the booths. We found her a beautiful aquamarine ring that fit her little finger, it will be a nice ring for her to remember summer and the fair, as she looks at it during school hours.
The goats have a happy routine they seem to like. Milking is going well and we have settled into a comfortable rhythm. I love that every time I go out to visit the goats or chickens, I'm bringing back armloads of the freshest milk and eggs. I have been drinking more milk than ever, I think we all have, it's that good! The yogurt is also delicious, it's light, tart and tangy, and with a little honey is just right. The goats have won over the hearts of everyone, they are so lovable and call out for attention. We also try to give them one or two walks with us everyday, and they run as fast as they can and leap and play. It puts a smile on my face to watch their exuberance and happiness.
We've been discussing plans for the new goat barn, what it will need, a milking room with power and hot water, a feed room to store hay and grain, and 4 stalls... might as well put the dream out there. We are planning to go look at a couple goat farms that have had goats for 20 to 30 years, and we'll see how they're set up after living with goats for so many years. They are the farms where Jersey and Zolena came from, both are farms with many years of raising goats.
The chickens are all thriving, we have Henrietta and the Cuckoo Maran sitting broody again, this will be their Fall chicks, they began sitting about 10 days ago. The older pullets are getting big and looking like small chickens, I still can't tell which will turn into roosters yet. The smalls chicks are growing and their mom is back on the perch and is letting her chicks sleep by Henrietta since she's sitting broody, she even lets them come sit near her at night. In rabbit news, I also picked up my Champagne d' argent buck last week, he's only 8 weeks old, and is so cute an cuddly, he has one ear that flops to the side that gives him some personality.
Anyway that's the current update for what's going on around here. Hope everyone is safe on the East coast with the hurricane beginning to touch down there, I was glad to read the winds have slowed a little. Good luck, stay safe!
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
Once I enter the garden, this is the center path, with strawberries and flowers on the left, the concrete bed is on the right. Straight ahead on the right are the young fruit tree rootstocks, on the left is the rhubarb, more strawberries, a grape arbor, with 3 grape vines, raspberries, wildflowers, herbs and asparagus.
We'll have plenty of cabbage for fresh eating, both the purple and green variety,
and lots of danish ballhead cabbage for sauerkraut.
Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kohlrabi, all of these love our cool rainy weather.
Purple Kohlrabi is delicious, and does well here.
This is my warm season crops, like cucumber, basil, lichi tomatoes, zuccini, sunburst pattypan squash, and delicata squash. They are so late this year, I wonder if I'll even get a crop, the warm season stuff goes quite late around here often in October. More motivation to get my greenhouse set up before next Spring.
My garden is a work in progress, each year I've spent making one big bed, by composting a small mountain right in the middle, and spreading it all over. I bring in wheelbarrow loads of rabbit and chicken manure from cleanings, also weeds, kitchen scraps, wood ashes, straw, leaves, and coffee grounds. Compost can just be made that easily, be sure to watch your brown and green ratio, and let sun, rain, and time do the rest.
Once the big beds were made, I then create a small path down the middle, and have square or rectangular beds, that are set up permanently so they are never walked on, and can be reached to maintain.
Currently the first of August, I've just planted more greens, and will also plant more carrots, radishes, and kale. Weeding is always a job that needs to be done, and some paths still need shade cloth and wood chips spread on them, I need to spread compost on more of the beds, and harvest some root crops, then there's successive sowing of greens and radishes, I always have a long to do list for the garden during the growing season. Then there comes a point, usually in the early Fall, when everything seems perfect and the harvest is at it's peak, I will take a break working on the outside, and really go into high gear putting food away for the winter through canning, freezing and drying.
We're in the middle of our summer, and this last week was our first solid week of sun we've had almost all season. We've had so much rain and cool weather, the sun felt so good to all of us. I hope you're enjoying your summer as much as we are.
Kaley loves to help me with the goats, she milks Joon our little Nigerian Dwarf, and I milk Zolena our Lamancha. New routines have been established since the goats arrived, feeding, milking and tending to them takes time in the morning and evening. Sometimes it means milking a little earlier or later than my ideal 7am, and 7pm milking times. Goats like routine, with regular feeding and milking schedules, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour in the morning and evening to milk and feed everyone.
I am so thankful for the goats, and am happy every time I get to milk them, it has been a dream of mine for many years to have dairy goats. Finally, I'm at a stage in my life where I can truly appreciate all the home made dairy products and their value and nutrition for our family. Now, in the early mornings and evenings as I walk across our field toward their barn and paddock area and hear them calling to me, it takes me back in time, to a farm wife, and a part time dairy maid, where there were few cares in the world other than the closest people and animals of home. I feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be in life.
Zolena is our main milker, she's a Lamancha dairy goat and she gives almost a gallon of milk per day. Plus she's super sweet, and lucky for me the milk stand and all her milk supplies came with her.
The first day my Lamancha doe came here, I christened her new name to be Zolena, she was called Ace. I didn't want to call her Ace, so named her from a character in the Jean Auel Mother Earth Series, the head Zelandonii's name was Zolena, she represented the Earth Mother. So in the end after much thinking about different names, the original name Zolena it is.
I have 3 stainless steel buckets and a strainer I carry out to the milking, along with a towel and tupperware full of hot sanitary water. The biggest bucket has ice water in the bottom third, the second smaller bucket sits inside the biggest bucket, and the strainer sits on top. I milk into the smallest bucket and pour 5 or 6 times throughout milking in through the strainer and into the chilled bucket. By the time I carry it into the house a half hour later, the milk is cold, I then pour it through another filter one more time and pour into jars to put in the freezer for a couple hours, once it's real chilled, I refrigerate it. It is so fresh and delicious, I never used to drink as much milk from the store because I knew it wasn't so good for me, now we're all drinking a glass everyday.
All the goats like to watch the milking ritual, and see if there are any goodies in it for them.
The reason we do it all, fresh goats milk...the best!
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The red currents are ready to harvest in my garden, I'll make jelly with both the red and black currents.
A yearly ritual on our farm is to make some black current juice at harvest time, it's a delicacy that only happens once a year, and is a highly nutritious energy drink.
We are in our abundant time of harvest, so many berries are ripening and need to be picked and processed.
Hinnomaki Red gooseberry bush, ready to harvest, I have 3 varieties of gooseberry, and love the taste of them all. The skin is tart and the inside sweet. We're still getting a smallish harvest and may just eat out of hand this year. They are delicious cut up in salads too.
Above is an Autumn Brilliance service berry, there won't be enough berries this year to do very much with, so I'll most likely use them in a small pint of juice.
I have 2 different types of strawberry bushes, Benton is a June bearing strawberry, that starts getting ripe around mid July. With Benton, we have have 3 to 4 weeks of strawberry abundance, not a day goes by that we're not out there picking. The other variety I have is Tri-Star, an everberring type, that will go on after the July harvest, and then produce the rest of the way through summer and Fall and to the first frost.
I'm also growing a few other berries, Aronia, Pinapple strawberry, and several more varieties of gooseberries and service berry bushes. I took cuttings in the Spring, and will multiply the berry bushes through propagation, that way we'll have more plants to get a good harvest from each berry variety.
Berry bushes take a couple years to get into great production, but they will still produce a little even the first year, more the second year, and the third year on you will have a good harvest. They should be one of the first fruits planted on a new homestead. Be sure to add some compost every year, and protect them from the deer, and you will have years of fresh organic fruit to eat, can and freeze.