Category Archives: Strawberries

Fruit Salad Recipe

We are still picking and eating fresh strawberries and I wanted to share one of my favorite fruit salad recipes that uses strawberries. Not only is it delicious it is simple to make (which makes it even better).

It’s not really important to have a specifics amounts of any of any of the ingredients but I’m going to give the amounts that I used to make it for our family picnic.

Ingredients:

1 quart fresh strawberries cored and sliced

2 cans mandarin oranges drained

4 bananas peeled and sliced

4 cups mini marshmallows

Mix all four ingredients in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

We had some left over from the picnic on Saturday so my husband took a waffle (left over from breakfast) and topped it with this fruit salad. He said it was DELICIOUS!

Strawberry Season and Chicken Pics

It’s strawberry season in Michigan and we have picked our first five quarts of berries. ūüôā This years berries are smaller than we have seen in past years, likely because of the dry spell we had as the berries were beginning to form, but despite the smaller size they have the sweet wonderful flavor that we have come to expect from our homegrown berries.

If you live in Michigan and want locally grown strawberries now is the time to look for them.

These are the new kids on the block – the chicks we bought earlier this year. When we bought them from the farm store we thought we bought black Australorp chicks. Instead we got a mixed bag. While the small one in the back looks like a black Australorp, two look like barred rocks and while the one in the middle is a beautiful bird, we have no idea what breed he might be.

You might remember that we started out with six chicks. sadly two of them fell prey to a racoon.

We had hoped to get at least one rooster out of the six and at this point we have identified two which we are certain are roosters and a third which we suspect might be a rooster but are more hopeful of it being a hen.

Recently our evening have been spent around the chicken yard, watching chicken TV, and being on the lookout for racoons. The chickens enjoy the evening visits especially this particular evening when my husband was passing out treats. ūüôā

Will you be shopping for locally grown produce this year?

Frogs on the Farm

“Frogs on the Farm” was originally written and published on March 30, 2017, a time when I had very few readers. I have decided to share it again today because for various reasons I haven’t got my usual “Spring is Springing” post ready. Be assured that spring is here: the birds have returned from their winter homes, the trees are beginning to bud, the daffodils, iris’s, lily’s and even the garlic are emerging from underground and the frogs are singing. More on that soon. ūüôā

Original Post published March 30, 2017

Last week on one of our sap cooking days, in addition to helping keep the fire going, I took on the secondary chore of raking the leaves out of the pond. As I came up with one rake full of leaves and shook them into the pile just beyond the beach, this frog hopped out of the leaves.

IMG_2362

I felt kind of guilty about awakening him or her, because I was yet to see or hear any frogs this spring. It did however spend a good deal of time sunning itself on the beach. It wasn’t until one of the chickens came running up behind it that it took¬†a three foot¬†leap back into the safety of the pond.

It was two days later that we heard the frogs for the first time this year. I remember my mom telling me, that her mom had told her, that after you hear frogs for the first time in the spring you will have three more freezes.¬†Although I’m always excited to hear the frogs in the spring, I haven’t really tested this theory.

Frogs and toads lived on our farm before we put in the pond. I remember the first spring there were tadpoles that had hatched in a puddle of water and my husband was dumping buckets of water in the puddle to keep it from drying up before the tadpoles reached their adolescent stage of life.

Our property does provide the perfect habitat for frogs and toads. The pond offers conditions needed for frogs to lay eggs, for the eggs to hatch into tadpoles and for the tadpoles to live until they grow legs and their lungs develop so they can leave the water. This can take over a year for bull frogs. Even mature frogs, who can live out of water, continue to need a wet area to keep their skin from drying out. Not only does our farm have the pond but we have wooded areas where the ground is covered with dead leaves that keep the ground moist even in the hot and dry summer conditions.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources article that I have linked below of the more than 3400 species of frogs/toads only 13 live in Michigan. I am certain we have at least 4 species that populate our farm.

Frogs and toads are wonderful for pest control. The aforementioned article relates that a single frog will consume thousands of insects per year. Last year we discovered that we were reaping the benefits of this.¬†As we picked¬†our bountiful harvest of strawberries ¬†https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/30/strawberries-at-last/¬†last June my husband and I spoke several times about the fact that we did not have any slugs eating the berries. This is a problem the we have had with strawberries we have grown at the house in the past. It wasn’t until my husband told me that he had been surprised by a frog hiding in the strawberry patch, while he was picking berries, that I realized that¬†this frog was probably enjoying a regular diet of slugs and any other pests that threatened¬†to consume our¬†strawberry crop. I am hopeful that a frog will take up residence in the strawberry patch again this year.

Frogs are a good indicator of the health of wetlands, ponds, lakes and such as they do not survive in polluted areas. The Michigan DNR article that I have linked below explains that chemical fertilizers and pesticides are a threat to frog populations; not only can the chemicals kills frogs and toads, but the pesticides also reduce their food supply.

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12201-35089–,00.html

The frogs on our farm are also entertaining. In the summer time when we walk around the edge of the pond the frogs jump into the pond one right after the next. It’s kind of funny because there may be 50-100 frogs sitting around the outer edge of the pond. The dogs like to chase the frogs but rarely are they able to catch them. Last year Scout spent hours in the evenings looking for frogs along the edge of the pond, he enjoyed the search immensely even though he never caught any. After dark¬†we are often treated to a campfire symphony, in surround sound I might add, as the several different species of frogs sing from different areas of the farm.

While not everyone has the luxury of being able to put a pond on their property I have included the following link for those who may be interested in creating a frog habitat. I would encourage you to read through the end of the article, as it does explain that the best way to introduce frogs to this habitat is to let them come to it naturally and this may take a year or more. It also explains that not all parts of the U.S. are favorable for creating frog habitats.

https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2000/Want-to-Host-a-Garden-Party-for-Frogs.aspx

Beginning Of Summer Farm Update

It’s been just a few days since summer arrived, but for once the weather seemed to coincide with the calendar. The heat that we have been getting has served to dry things up nicely so things are looking much better at the farm.

STRAWBERRIES

Despite the cool, rainy spring our strawberries did well. We have been picking berries for about two weeks now.

IMG_5194

These berries were from the first day we picked. Since then we have picked about 60 quarts of strawberries. They seem to be slowing down but we will probably be picking for the next couple of days at least.

IMG_5216

Besides eating fresh strawberries (even some right in the field as we pick) we have enjoyed them in fruit salad, as strawberry short cake with homemade whipped cream, I made nine pints of strawberry jam, and we have about 15 quarts in the freezer. We have also been able to share them with family and friends.

As we were picking berries on that first day we came across this well hidden nest in the middle of the patch.

IMG_5202

We had no idea what type of eggs they were and we hadn’t seen a momma bird around at all.

Then a few days ago when my husband was picking berries alone he called to tell me that the eggs had hatched. He also said that momma sparrow was watching him from the fence.

IMG_5249

Yesterday as we picked she stayed on the nest until I took her photo.IMG_5252

I think that startled her and she quickly flew away, so I was able to get a photo of her young.

IMG_5250

Although there were five eggs in the nest I could only make out four babies.

GARDEN

Over the last two weeks we were able to get the garden planted. Although planting conditions were less than ideal we planted cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, basil, parsley and more tomatoes. We also put in carrot, beet, and Swiss chard seeds.

The plants that we put in seem to be taking hold but the seeds that only went in a few days ago have yet to sprout.

IMG_5234

This year we decided to use weed guard around many of the plants. This product is a thick organic paper. It will help keep moisture in and weeds down. It will also break down over the course of the summer and can be tilled into the soil.

Having been unsure when or if we would be able to plant a garden at the farm this year I had planted sweet peas and pole beans in containers and they are growing on our deck.

The peas which were planted several weeks before the beans are now producing pods and the peas are growing inside of them. I picked a few of the pods that had not began to fill out and added them to my beef stew a couple nights ago.

BEES

As always we have been keeping an eye out to see where the bees are foraging. We have seen them in the clover, chives, thyme, and raspberries.

IMG_5227

Last Saturday while my husband and son-in-law were doing some fishing I was moving some bricks with the tractor (I love driving the tractor) and I noticed this swarm of bees in a pear tree. Christmas in June! LOL!

IMG_5236

The guys finished up their fishing and my husband prepared to capture the swarm. We helped him set up the new hive and he got out all of the equipment he would need.

IMG_5238

The swarm was located within reach so he had no need for a ladder.

The hive these bees were placed in is a warre top-bar hive. Since there are no frames to remove and the top bars run across the top of each box it was necessary to have the box upside-down pour the bees in. Then he covered it with a piece of cardboard while he returned to the pear tree to gather the remaining bees.

The bees that did not get captured the first time around were collecting back on the tree limb so he gave them a little time to settle before shaking them into the bucket and taking them to their new home.

After pouring the remaining bees into the hive box he again covered it with the cardboard. then Ken helped him hold the cardboard in place as he flipped the box over and placed on top of the lower box. He then slid the cardboard out so the top box sat directly on the lower box.

IMG_5245

CHICKEN

I thought I would include one last picture just because I thought it was cute.

IMG_5212

Not all of our chickens have names but there are a select group that have earned their names. This one is Honey. She is one of three surviving chickens from our very first batch of chicks in 2013. She earned her name by being friendly and lovable. She is at the top of the pecking order, and while she is rarely mean to other hens she pretty much rules the roost and the bumper as the case may be.

I will leave you with this – one of my favorite scriptures.

IMG_4033

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Has summer arrived is your part of the world?

Pickin’ and Preserving

I just thought I would do a quick post about what we have harvested in the past week.

Strawberries РSince we began picking strawberries we have harvested nearly 50 quarts of strawberries. After I froze enough to keep us in homemade jam through the year we began offering them to family and friends. We have had a lack of rain so the berries are not big this year but they are delicious.  Due the dry conditions we are not certain that the plants will continue to produce berries much longer.

Garlic Scapes – Several people who visited the farm this week went home with some garlic scapes. We cut, bundled and delivered scapes to a local retailer and are having scapes for dinner tonight.

Oregano РIt was time to start picking oregano before it blossoms. Oregano is a very prolific herb that is spreading throughout, and making a nice ground cover in our prayer garden. Since I will not be ready to can spaghetti sauce for at least a month I will dry the herbs as I harvest them and they will keep well until I am ready to use them. When it flowers the bees are very attracted to it.

IMG_4245

I find that air drying herbs works well. I have a couple different methods for doing this. One is to tie the herbs in a bunch, like I have done with the oregano in the above picture, and hang then where they will get good air flow until the leaves completely dry. Once they are completely dry I remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.

Basil – Basil is another herb that I use in my spaghetti sauce. It is an annual so we plant a few plant each year. It is not very large yet but picking some of it now will encourage it to grow more and discourage it from flowering too soon. Since the basil stems were pretty short I decided it was best to dry them on our drying screen (shown in the photo below).

The drying screen is simply made of a wooden frame with screen stapled together. The frame that we used actually came as packaging from a table that we had purchased. I saved it because I knew there was a better use for it the just throwing it away. The screen that we used was part of a roll of screen that I had picked up for a couple dollars at an estate sale.

Since the drying screen does not have legs I usually put a box under each end so there is good air flow all the way around. Depending on the temperature, leafy herbs will usually dry in a few days on the drying screen. They are then stored in air tight containers until we are ready to use them

Plantain Leaves –¬†¬†When¬†you see plantain you may think of¬†a fruit similar to a banana that grows on trees¬†(Musa paradisiaca) but¬†we can’t grow that here. Apparently plantain trees grow best in zones 8 through 11 and require 10-15 months with temperatures above freezing to bear fruit. That doesn’t happen in Michigan.

The plantain I am referring to is know as common plantain (plantago major) and common it is. It pops up seemly everywhere and you would probably recognize it even if you don’t know it’s name. Along with not knowing it’s name you may not be aware that plantain had many health benefits and is often included in list of the top weeds that we should be eating. Although we have not yet included plantain in our diet I have been harvesting it for medicinal purposes for several years. The following website includes a photo and information about plantains medicinal uses https://usesofherbs.com/plantain.

IMG_4244
Marshmallow Leaves On The Drying Screen

 

Marshmallow Leaves –¬†¬†If you are not familiar with the wonder benefits of the Marshmallow plant you can read about it here¬†https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-marshmallow.html.

We have been growing marshmallow for several years now and in the fall I harvest some of the roots as I use it in my Hair Care soap. Last year I also harvested some of the leaves, dried them and stored them. I enjoyed marshmallow tea a few times and have begun harvesting and drying the leaves so I can replenish my herbal¬†“medicine cabinet”.

I actually started this post last week intending for it to be a short summery of our weeks efforts but as the time passes we are harvesting more and more produce. Before I wrap it up I will quickly add –

Blueberries –¬† We are picking fully ripened blueberries and not having to worry about the birds getting them first. If you aren’t sure why click here¬†to read about our blueberry patch update.

and last but not least

Currants – I have been waiting for months for these little berries to be ready. In my opinion they are a superfood and I intend on doing a separate post on them and how I am preserving them.

I am going to wrap up this post now before the list gets any longer. As I head to the farm to pick berries I wish you all a blessed day.

If you have enjoyed this post and would like to know what foods are in our future please sign  up to follow this blog and if you have found this information valuable feel free to share it with your friends.