Tag Archives: Homesteading

We Can Dig It

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This post isn’t really about sitting on the beach or playing in the sand but I thought I would show you where we spent some time relaxing and celebrating Independence Day. Unfortunately by the time I remembered to snap a picture the beach umbrella had been blown down by the wind.

We decided to give our beach a little upgrade this summer, so when we had the stone delivered for the barn floor we also had a load of beach sand delivered. The sand was dumped on the beach and since we haven’t yet had time to spread it we haven’t been able to sit on the beach.

Yesterday my husband fixed that. He just took the tractor bucket and pushed through the middle of the pile of sand forming a small peninsula of sand in the pond. We then spent the late afternoon swimming and relaxing on the beach. It was a very enjoyable day.

Now what the title of this post is really referring to is our garlic harvest. It started today. If you are not familiar with how garlic grows, it is a bulb that grows under the ground. In order to harvest garlic it must be dug out of the ground. While 7000+ garlic plants may seem like a huge number, it is not nearly enough to be able to afford any fancy planting or harvesting equipment. Thus we dig each individual bulb by hand.

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Despite the brutal temperatures today we were able to get one of our three varieties harvested.  We only had two and 1/4 rows of this variety, Red Toch, planted – probably between 1400 and 1500 bulbs. We were thrilled to be able to move them directly from the field into the barn to keep them out of the hot sun.

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Once they were all harvested my husband began tying them into bundles and hanging them from the rafters. Our barn was finished just in time and we are so grateful to have it.

While I have several posts that I am working on and would like to publish soon, this really is a busy time for us. If I seem to be MIA for a while there is probably no need to send a search party. If you do, however, decide to send one make sure they bring a shovel. LOL!

Bonus Photo

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We are not the only ones who enjoy spending time at the pond.

Thanks for visiting and until next time be well. 🙂

Pickin’ and Preserving

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

Strawberries – Since 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 – It 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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

When Dreams Come True

 

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View Of Our Farm Across the Adjoining Field

I am so excited!!! Over the last two weeks the vista of our farm has been transformed. WE HAVE A BARN!!! Something we have been wanting since we bought the farm.

As garlic growers one of our challenges each year has been finding space for the garlic to cure for several weeks after it comes out of the ground. The space needs to be dry, out of direct sunlight and have good airflow. We have been very innovative over the last few years to accomplish this, but as our crop size increased each year it became more and more apparent that what we needed to do it right was a barn.

I thought about making this a post about the entire process – including why township ordinances prevented us from building a barn and how we overcame that obstacle, securing the funds, finding a builder, etc… I instead decided just allow you to share in our excitement and give you a photo tour.

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On June 14 my husband hung the building permit as the builders (JP Construction)started working. Woo Hoo!!!

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The site as the work was just beginning.

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Drilling into the ground where the footings would be set. The footings are set 48 inches underground.

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At the end of the first day all of the posts were set. The rest of the boards that are up are acting as bracing.

IMG_4149I wasn’t around much for the actual building but each evening I would check it out and photograph the progress. Little by little our dream was becoming reality.

Various stages of construction – getting closer every day.

 

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View from the loft looking toward the front of our property. This photo was taken before the barn was finished. The 2×4 boards that were bracing the barn have now been removed and we have an unobstructed view.

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View from the dormer over looking our pond.

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Arriving at the farm.

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View from the back of the barn.

 

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The work crew. A job well done. 🙂

My husband has been working on putting in the gravel floor and there are a few finishing touches that we will add, but the barn was finished none too soon, as we will be digging garlic in July and we now have the perfect place to hang it for several weeks while it cures.

Thanks for visiting!

Garlic Scapes – Now Available At Neiman’s Family Market In Saint Clair, Michigan

Our locally grown (Saint Clair County, Michigan) Garlic Scapes are now available at Neiman’s Family Market in Saint Clair, Michigan. Check out their website here.

What are Garlic Scapes???

They are the seed heads produced by hardneck garlic varieties. They appear in the spring, and if left to grow they will flower and produce dozens of tiny garlic bubils (seeds). Most growers cut the scape off the garlic plant in order to allow the garlic to put more energy into growing a bigger bulb. If cut early the scapes are tender and delicious. They are said to have the same nutritional value as garlic bulbs, and although they possess a milder flavor when cooked, they are a culinary delight. They are great roasted, grilled, stir fried, sautee’d or used raw in dips, salads and pesto. To discover great garlic scape recipes simply do an internet search for garlic scape recipes or try the pesto recipe at the bottom of the page. They are only available for a short time in the spring but can be preserved by freezing or pickling.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup garlic scapes (8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 14-inch slices
13 cup walnuts
34cup olive oil
14to 12 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place the scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and blend until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and process until integrated.

2. With a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out of the bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator. Also freezes well; the cheese can be added to the pesto after it has thawed.

Makes about 34 cup.

 

Remember Garlic Scapes are only available for a few weeks so stop by Neiman’s and grab a bunch or two. (While you are there you might just want to sneak back to the bakery department and treat yourself to one of the best doughnuts around 😉 )

Spring Happenings

The last weekend in May is known as the unofficial start of summer and the weather last weekend played right along. Temperatures were around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Time seems to being going so fast that I am wondering how I missed spring.

I went back and looked at some of my photos from the last few weeks for a reminder.

IMG_4094The fruit trees, including apple, pear, and tart cherry all blossomed and are now setting fruit. Berry bushes, including our blue berry, raspberry, currant and grapes are setting fruit as well.

IMG_4091The dandelions blossomed and my husband helped me pick a bunch for soap making before they went to seed. I have enough for two batches of sweet dandelion soap. Trooper didn’t help pick dandelions but he enjoyed being there.

Speaking of Sweet Dandelion soap, I had just made a batch in May when I received the Mother’s Day gift my girls bought for me. It is a soap stamp. So I began playing with it as this batch was curing.IMG_4128It will be tricky to figure out when the soap is the correct degree of hardness for the stamp to work just right and challenging learning to apply the right amount of pressure to the stamp so I don’t squish the soap. I thought about using some type of coloring to add contrast, but it has to be something natural since I do not use artificial coloring in my soap. In the above photo I used cinnamon in one and turmeric in the other. Learning to use this will be a lot of trial and error.

The dandelions have now gone to seed and last week when I was mowing the lawn I was getting bombarded with dandelion seeds. They were flying everywhere and they were stuck to my clothes and in my hair. I told my husband I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with dandelions growing out of my ears. He thought they would probably grow from my belly button because “you know everyone has a little dirt in their belly button.” LOL!IMG_4106We have been hearing  pheasants a lot on the farm and in the neighboring field and every now and the we get a glimpse of one. We are glad to see them as it had seemed that the pheasant population had all but disappeared over the last thirty or so years.

IMG_4102We have spotted many new nests around the farm this spring mostly they have been empty when we looked but one had robin eggs in it and I did spot this momma sitting on hers.

IMG_4127We also have a pair of ducks who have been frequenting the pond this spring. My husband and I agree that we will not be surprised if we find out that they have a nest in the woods next to the pond. I guess we will know if they show up with babies.

IMG_4097This past winter was a bad one for bees in our area. We lost four of our five hives so we bought two more packages and installed them into hives. Since my husband installed them on his own I didn’t get any photos.

The garden has been planted. We have tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, egg plant, potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, cantaloupe, water melon, lettuce, Swiss chard, celery, basil, parsley, carrots, beets, green beans, corn, winter squash and pumpkins.

Along with the hot weather came a dry spell – we weren’t really expecting it because the weather forecasters had predicted that we would get rain and storms as the remnants from tropical storm Alberto made it’s way North into our part of the country. Somehow all that rain missed us.

IMG_1233Fortunately my husband had put the pump in the pond and we were able to take advantage of the wind that we had last week to get the tanks filled and keep things watered as we awaited the rain.

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We finally got rain this morning and what a blessing it is. Not only will it give all of our crops the boost that they need right now, and give us a break from watering, it makes pulling weeds much easier. Pulling weeds is one of the thing we have been spending much time doing this past week as weeds were threatening to take over the strawberry patch, the garlic field and the asparagus patch. Pulling weeds out of dry clay soil is next to impossible so that task will go much quicker now.

IMG_4124.JPGSince the temperatures were so warm (hot) I did spend some time last Friday raking the beach area. If I have to work on a hot day cleaning the pond is the perfect job. 🙂 After I raked the leaves out of the beach area and used our small rototiller to rough up the sand we set up our beach chairs and umbrella. Woo hoo we are ready for summer!!!

The following day when the sun was high in the sky and temperatures soared, a dip in the pond was a refreshing treat.

Thus far we have picked and eaten and froze lots of asparagus and I picked some rhubarb and put several packages in the freezer as well. When I was freezing the rhubarb I discovered one small package of rhubarb from last year. I decided I needed to use it up. I also found the last of my strawberries from last year – another small package. Since there were only about a cup of each there was not really enough to make this into a pie or crisp, so I decided to make strawberry-rhubarb sauce. I put both the strawberries and the rhubarb in a sauce pan then added a bit of water – maybe a half cup. I wasn’t too worried about having too much because I could cook it off to get the sauce to thicken. I simmered this until the fruit was soft. I then mashed the mixture with a potato masher. I continued cooking it until it was thick and added sugar to taste. I can’t really tell you how much sugar to add because everybody likes a different degree of sweetness and some strawberries are much sweeter than others. I just started with a couple tablespoons and tasted until it was right. While this fruity dessert was good eaten plain, my husband used some as an ice cream topping and I mixed some with some vanilla yogurt as well.

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I have always believed that time seems to go faster as I get older, so I think both of these combined explains why it is June already and I feel like I missed Spring. Thanks for sticking with me for this recap.

Just curious – does time seem to be flying by for you as well?