According to almanac.com the dog days of summer run from July 3 through August 11 which is normally the hottest and most humid time of year in the northern hemisphere. Around here every day is a dog day. Just ask Ranger and Trooper. But, yes, the HEAT IS ON and it is accompanied by a dry spell so keeping the gardens watered has been the main focus for the past week or so. If you are curious about how we manage that on our off-grid farm you can check out our off-grid irrigation system here.
In the mean time I put together a collection of pictures that I’ve taken over about the past few weeks to share with you.
This is how Ranger cools off on these hot days. (Did you know beagles can swim?)
and Trooper enjoys laying on the beach after a swim in the pond.
The grandbabies love the water as much as the dogs do.
Dragonflies are yet another creature that appreciate the pond.
This one is drinking water from the sand. Check out the honey bee (on the left) that photo bombed this shot. She too was coming to the beach for a drink of water.
This beauty hung out with us on the beach, for a couple of hour yesterday evening, fluttering about and pausing now and then to rest or perhaps get a sip of water.
One last pond picture because we can never have too much cuteness. LOL.
Speaking of cuteness, here is a double dose – twins.
The lavender is gorgeous this year and the bees and butterflies are all over it.
We have transitioned from strawberry season to blueberry season. On the same day that my husband, and (daughter) Kara, picked the last of the strawberries, I took (daughter) Tina, and Jackson and Addy into the blueberry patch to pick the first ripe berries. While Kara took her 3/4 of a basket of strawberries home. Addy couldn’t wait, so she ate all of the blueberries we picked while they were still at the farm.
Start them off young – that’s my motto. They posed for a group photo then dad took Jackson and Addy, one at a time, for a ride on the tractor.
The garden is flourishing. I have harvested basil and calendula flowers twice so far.
We have green tomatoes, peppers starting to develop, blossoms on the eggplant,
blossoms on the green beans and the corn is knee high.
We cut garlic scapes (check out this post to learn more about scapes) about two weeks ago and will be digging garlic soon.
It seems that every summer our back field is dominated by different plants. This year it is full of clover and birdsfoot trefoil and I think it is just gorgeous. It’s also great bee food.
I’ll leave you with one last photo of this pair who stopped by our deck for a short visit last week. They were kind enough to stay so I could get a photo then they hurried on their way.
Thanks for visiting and remember – stay hydrated, breathe deep and stay well.
Several blogs that I have seen this morning have reminded me that it is Earth Day. In fact it is the 50th year that this day has been celebrated. It is really just a coincidence that I have prepared a post with lots of pictures of our little piece of this earth but I invite you to have a look around.
Even though we lost all of our bees over the winter we still have two hives that have some honey in them. On the days that are warm and sunny they are being visited by what we assume are wild honey bees. Since there is little available for them to forage this early in the year these bees are eating the honey that remains in the hives. It is good to know there are still honey bees in the area.
Daffodils are blossoming and the bushes in the background are forsythia just beginning to bud out. We have never had the forsythia blossom so fully. Last year we decided not to prune them but to wait until after they are done blossoming this spring. It seems to have worked.
Yellow is a happy color. 🙂
It shouldn’t be long before the forsythia is fully blossomed. I think it will be a stunning backdrop for the pond.
These small daffodils and white hyacinths were planted 5 years ago in memory of my husband’s mother. My husband had bought them for her to brighten up her room when she was in the hospital. After she passed away we brought them home and planted them in the prayer garden. They are the first daffodils to blossom every year.
The garlic is doing well. I love seeing them come up in neat, orderly rows.
These small red shoots are a peony bush the I planted last year in memory of my Aunt Shirley. I am so happy to see it coming up.
I spotted the first dandelions to open. They were growing in the middle of my oregano patch so I will likely dig them out. Personally I love to see dandelions in bloom they just don’t belong in my oregano patch.
Above are cosmos and below are primrose. Both were added to the prayer garden last year. They were given to my husband by a lady whose home he was working at while he was working the landscaping job.
The cosmos continued to flower all last summer and were not touched by the deer, but the top growth on the primrose died off after being transplanted. They then formed new leaves but did not flower. I guess I will find out this year if they are deer candy or not.
A cardinal was visiting the chicken yard. This is not unusual. Many birds (and rabbits, and squirrels and even deer) visit that area since there is always food available.
Blue berry bushes are beginning to bud out as are apple trees (below).
We witnessed something we have never seen before on Sunday. Honey bees were foraging in the daffodils.
We have had daffodils growing since before we began keeping bees and if you have been following my blog for very long you know that I always watch to see where the bees are and what plants they are foraging.
This is the first time in eight years that we have seen the honey bees collecting daffodil pollen. Since I am not skilled enough as a photographer to get a picture of the pollen attached to their bodies you will just have to take my word that they were collecting pollen to take back to their hive.
As I was working at the farm on Monday I noticed this egret land near the pond. He or she quickly swooped up a tasty treat. I’m not sure if it was a frog or a fish.
It then continued to make it’s way around the edge of the pond.
It was about 45 minutes later that I saw it fly away so I can only assume it left with a full belly.
Not everything that is happing at the farm is as passive as this appears.
On Sunday I decided it was time to start preparing the ground around the apple trees for the companion plants I am going to put in.
Since my husband was working in a different area, we put Ranger on a tie near where I was working. When he saw me digging in the dirt he decided to come and help. I have to admit that he was much more efficient digging with his paws than I was with a trowel. Unfortunately after digging for a short bit he sniffed the area and realized there were no mice hiding in that ground, so he was done.
I finished removing the grass and top layer of soil around the base of the tree – only six more to go. I will then be planting chives which are said to ward off insects and prevent apple scab and nasturtiums which are also reported to repel insects. We won’t know until summer if these methods are working but lets all hope that I’ll be posting pictures of beautiful apples later this year.
Now this post is getting long and we’re heading out to work in the asparagus patch (it should be coming up soon) so I’ll save the information about the work we are doing there for another post.
Perhaps this post should be sub-titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” because we have seen a bit of each this winter.
The chickens mostly fall in good category. Egg production slowed down in late November as usual and we were only getting 2-4 eggs a day, but as the hours of daylight have been getting longer egg production has been gradually increasing. We are now gathering between 7-10 eggs a day. We had more than enough eggs for us, so we didn’t have to buy any this winter. The lack of snow this winter has made the chickens happy because they tend to stay inside when there is snow on the ground.
The bad, or at least sad, part is that our rooster died on Thanksgiving. He was one of three birds left from our first batch of chicks we got in 2013. Toward the end of summer we noticed that old age seemed to be catching up to him, so we were not surprised by his death. So far the flock seems to be doing well without him. I was never especially close to Cocky because he seemed to feel that he had to protect his flock from me. I did learn, after being spurred in the leg by him a couple times, not to turn my back on him. We sparred many times over the years, but I did respect him as protector of our flock. While I don’t miss having to look over my should when I’m in or around the chicken yard, I do miss hearing his Cock-a-doodle-do’s.
Bees fall into the UGLY category. At the end of summer we had eight hives most of which seemed to be thriving. Over fall and winter we have lost all of them. We are baffled as to why the bees are dying. Every hive has had lots of honey in it, the hives have top ventilation to prevent moisture build up and our winter temps haven’t even been that cold so it doesn’t make sense that they are freezing to death. Some even died before temperatures got cold.
It is sad and it is frustrating to have so many losses, but we have decided not to give up yet. We have ordered three more packages of bees to arrive in May so we can try, try again.
At this time it seems that the garlic falls into the good category. The new location seems to be good since despite lots of rain and snow melt we have not had any flooding in that area.
The main reason that I am including garlic in this update is because several readers were interested in knowing how the weed guard that we used when planting the garlic worked out. (You can read about it here.) Unfortunately it did not work out as we hoped it would. All was well until after the first big snow storm in early November. We then had a warm up, and as the snow melted, the weed guard became saturated. Then we began seeing rips in it. It seems the wind was getting under the exposed edges and ripping the wet paper. It became so tore up that we ended up removing it completely and mulching the garlic with straw before the ground froze.
If we use this product in the future we now understand it is important to make sure all of the edges are secured – perhaps by burying them in the soil.
This is another one for the good column. This new addition is currently under construction. It has come a lot farther since this photo was taken last week. Our plan is to have it ready so we can start our garden plants in it this spring. I plan to write a post on it’s design and construction once it is complete and will likely write about it’s uses in the future as well.
The boy’s also fall into the good category. Most of our time at the farm this winter has been spent with the boys, more specifically training Ranger. This pup has so much energy that it is important that he get out and use it up. We have found that he requires a minimum of two hours a day outside, but on most day it’s three or more hours of walking, running and hunting.
We have been using a training collar that has three settings – a beep, a vibrate, and a shock. The collar, along with voice commands, is working well with training him to stay on our property, but it is going to take a lot more training and time before he can be trusted not to leave the farm. Beagles have a strong hunting instinct and if they pick up the scent of a rabbit or other small animal (there are many on our farm) it is difficult to call them off.
We are not hunters so we will not be training to hunt rabbits or squirrels.
He and Trooper do enjoy hunting for field mice together. This is something that Scout and Trooper would do for hours at a time and we are happy that Ranger has become Trooper’s new hunting buddy.
Watching the boys hunt mice can get a bit boring, but it is interesting to observe how they work together.
Trooper who is mostly a watch dog uses both his nose and eyes for hunting.
Ranger, who is a hunting dog, primarily uses his nose.
So while Ranger has his nose buried in the dirt trying to sniff out his prey Trooper might capture it as he sees it trying to escape.
After consulting with our vet we did have the boys immunized against diseases that they could catch from mice.
I think it is largely as a result of all this outdoor activity that Ranger has become such a great house dog. While at home is is content to settle into his or our bed for a nap, or he might seek out a little cuddle time from one of us. If he does get bored he will find a rawhide to chew on or bring his ball for a game of catch. He does however let us know when it’s time to get out a expend some of the built up energy.
A couple of weeks ago we decided to put him to the test. We needed to go grocery shopping so thought we would see how well he would behave if we left him out of his crate for a couple hours while we were away. Our strategy was to make sure he was tired out first, so my husband took the boys to the farm for about an hour before we went shopping. Before we left for shopping we also made sure that some of the things that might be tempting to a puppy (shoes, slippers, books) were out of his reach.
We were so happy when we returned home and found the house in the same condition that we left it in. The Boy’s, especially Ranger, were rewarded with lot’s of “good boy’s” and another nice long walk (run, play, hunt) at the farm. We have since left him on three more occasions and have come returned home each time to find that he was a “Good Boy”. 🙂 It may be time to get rid of the crate.
My plan this morning was to clean garlic. There were about 150 bulbs that I wanted to get done. I figured it would take me about an hour to complete this task so I also took some time to enjoy the day. Would you like to join me?
As I walked past the garden I was greeted by this sunflower. I wonder, is it possible to look at a sunflower and not smile? As you can tell I was not the only one happy to see this flower. The honey bees were all over it.
This was the view from were I was working. Nothing but blue sky and sunshine this morning.
While walking through the prayer garden I discovered that the honey bees were also foraging the anise hyssop. This is a recent addition to the prayer garden and was largely added for the benefit of the bees. I only see one bee in this picture, but I assure you there were more that the camera did not capture.
My husband discovered that bees like this plant while working at his landscaping job. They had to go to a greenhouse to purchase some anise hyssop plants for a job they were doing, and he said the bees were all over the plants. A couple weeks later he took me to that greenhouse to purchase some for our farm.
Another visitor to the prayer garden this morning was this Hummingbird, searching for nectar in the hanging plants.
It is a bit camouflaged by the green plants in the background. Do you see it just left of center?
It is now to the right of this basket.
In recent weeks we have seen the return of an annual visitor. For at least the past 5 years we have seen this bird (or one like it) in and around our pond in the late summer. I am assuming it is the same bird and although we usually see just one at a time on rare occasions we will see two.
Since it was not a bird I was familiar with and was unable to positively identify it through our bird books or internet searches, in 2016 I turned to my blog readers for help through this post. While the answer did not come through the post comments, I learned that our bird was a Green Herron.
He or she is a quiet bird and blends well into the grasses that surround the pond.
Can you believe this is the same bird? It’s appearance certainly changes as it makes a quick getaway.
Before noon I return to the house with that batch of garlic cleaned.
September 6, 2019
Though there was rain in the forecast I was hopeful it would hold off and I could finish up cleaning the last batch (about 100 bulbs) of garlic.
The sky was gray and the sun was hidden. Before getting started I took in some of the surroundings.
Maple leaves are indicating that Fall is not far off.
Squirrels have been collecting nuts.
This sunflower with a fancy hairdo.
The Norway Spruce that is loaded with pinecones.
With the threat of rain it was not a good morning for cleaning garlic so my plan B was to work in the prayer garden.
As I brought out my garden tools the rain began.
Perhaps plan C, canning tomatoes, is a better job for today.
Thanks for joining me. Are you seeing signs of Fall in your area?
Simply put Lacto Fermentation is a process that uses salt water also know as brine to ferment vegetables. For a more detailed explanation you can click here. Sauerkraut and pickles are probably the most commonly lacto fermented foods here in the USA. However not all pickles are made using lacto fermentation and although sauerkraut may be made using this process it is often pasteurized (canned) thus killing the probiotics and depleting the nutritional benefits of fementing.
Getting It Right
As I mentioned in my last post I have done some fermenting in the past. Sometimes they turned out good and sometimes they did not, so recently when I was reading about lacto fermentation I was mentally taking notes to see what I may need to do differently.
After reading this article , choosing the right type of salt seemed like something that could be a key to getting it right. In the past I had used either pickling salt or kosher salt. I had thought that they were pure salt and varied only in texture. I did not realize that they may have anticaking agents added which may effect the fermentation process. It is also worth pointing out that some sea salts may have anticaking agents added.
When we visited our local health food store and I asked the sales person about salt she showed me the three varieties that they carry. They included Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt, and a product called Pure Salt. She told me she had used each of these salts and all of them work great for fermenting foods. I chose Himalayan Pink.
Water was another concern. I knew that I must use water that was not chlorinated for making the brine but what I had not thought about was the water I was using to clean the vegetables. I had been using our tap water (which is chlorinated) to clean my vegetables and probably killed off some or all of the healthy bacteria that was present. I have since started using filtered water to clean my vegetables.
The last decision I made was to only do small batches. Although I have fermenting crocks, (2 gallon and 5 gallon) for a couple of reasons fermenting in quart and pint size canning jars seems to be a better option. Since it is just my husband and I at home we are not likely to eat two gallons (or more) worth of sauerkraut (or any other vegetable ferment) before it passes it’s prime. Additionally if I ferment a smaller amount and for some reason it goes bad I only wasted that small amount. Even if I want to do larger amounts it seems wise to use the canning jars as they are easier to store in the refrigerator and I could gift them to family or friends.
Since we still have some home grown garlic on hand I decided to start with fermenting a jar of garlic. As you can see in the photo above I used a wide mouth pint size canning jar. I (kind of) followed this recipe. I actually had to chuckle when I read their instructions for peeling garlic cloves. If you have been following my blog for a while you probably already know that I highly recommend using these silicone tube garlic peelers.
I peeled enough garlic to fill my jar leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top. I mixed two tablespoons of Himalayan Pink salt with one quart of non- chlorinated water and stirred it until all of the salt was dissolved. I the poured enough of the salt-water (brine) over the garlic to cover the cloves. Since the garlic cloves floated up and some parts were no longer covered with brine I needed to weigh them down. I had a smaller jar that nested nicely inside the wide mouth jar. Perfect! I then slipped a jelly bag over both jars and secured it with a rubber band to keep fruit flies out. Any clean cloth would have worked for this purpose I just happened to have a jelly bag. I then stored the extra brine in my refrigerator in case I needed to add more or to use for my next batch.
I left the jar of garlic sitting on the counter in the kitchen for about 10 days. I checked it every couple of days, by tasting it, to see if it was ready to be moved to the refrigerator where the fermentation process would be slowed down significantly. I determined it was ready when the garlic had developed a milder and a somewhat sweeter flavor and the brine was infused with the garlic flavor. The cloves had begun to soften but still had some crunch to them. Determining when the vegetables are ready really is subjective – if you like the flavor and texture then they are ready. 🙂 To refrigerate them I removed the jelly bag and small jar. Then I capped them with a regular canning jar lid.
Eating Fermented Garlic
We are now enjoying eating fermented garlic. In fact the jar is more than half gone. It has a pickled garlic flavor. I try to include a couple of cloves in our diet each day. Our home grown garlic has a stronger (hotter) flavor than any garlic that we have found commercially available and even fermented it has retained some of it’s heat. My husband, who will often eat raw cloves of garlic despite tears coming to his eyes as he chews it up, will eat a few whole cloves of the fermented garlic as a side dish with his lunch or dinner. I, on the other hand, prefer to slice the cloves and add them to a salad or a sandwich or throw a few slices on top of my spaghetti. However we decide to eat them it is important to keep them raw in order to reap the benefits of the probiotics.
Sauerkraut! I originally planned to include it in this post but since this post is getting long I will dedicate a separate post to sauerkraut.
Have you ever eaten pickled garlic? Do you have a favorite fermented vegetable or recipe you would like to share?