Sunday, September 28, 2014

Feeling like a squirrel

I’m not running up and down trees (yet) but putting food away for the winter makes me think that I may have some character traits in common with squirrels.  I know, squirrels are not popular critters with many folks due to their chattering and penchant for destruction, but you have to admire their industriousness, at least I do.  And they are cute…  Here’s what we are up to at Ole Lake Farm this week.

Beans:  Remember the Jacob’s Cattle Beans?  I finally got them shelled.  I love how they look!  (photo below) Not a bumper crop, but enough to plant next year, save a jar for the County Fair next summer, and cook up a batch. 

Spuds:  Kurt dug the potatoes this week.  We are big fans of this tuber around here, and if we had better storage for them we would grow more.  Some might say that there’s not much difference between a homegrown spud and a store-bought one, but I would disagree with that.
A few red potatoes for fall and winter enjoyment
Tomatoes:  Made more tomato sauce yesterday.  I was able to procure some paste tomatoes from Ole’s Farm, an Aitkin Farmer’s Market vendor so today there was a lot of slicing and dicing to transform them into salsa.  There are as many salsa recipes out there as there are salsa makers, and maybe easier methods.   I make it chunky, which makes it fairly labor intensive.  The finished product makes it well worth the effort.  By the way, there is only one more week for the farmer’s market in Aitkin, so I will encourage all you locals one more time to stop in and support the growers.

Awesome pasters
Plums:  A co-worker shared some plums with me this week, so I canned some plum syrup today.  We are not much for jelly or jam around here, but it’s nice to have some fruit syrup as an alternative for pancakes, and as a basis for making sweet-and-sour sauce.
Beans!  Salsa! Plum syrup!

Peppers:  More slicing and dicing for the freezer.

Field and Forest:  Rollie, Ardis, and Kurt have been working on getting up the winter’s supply of wood.  The outdoor furnaces that keep both of our homes warm (and by both I mean our house here at Ole Lake Farm, and The North House, where Ardis and Rollie live) have voracious appetites, and in case we have another harsh winter like the last, we need to be ready.  Kevin has been plowing and discing with whatever time he can scrounge.  He reports that it's pretty dry out there.

Apples:  Kevin and I visited Gilby’s Orchard this morning.  Locals, if you haven’t been there, you should visit.  They have more than just apples (even  honey, which has been a little scarce locally), and today they even had Northwood’s Pizza there making wood-fired pizza’s in their portable set-up.  It was really neat.  They were baking up a breakfast pizza for someone else, and boy did it look and smell good!!!  Anyway, I picked up some apples and next weekend I will be making applesauce.

Chickens:  The deed is done.  Some of my older hens, and the young cockerels were delivered to Wellspring Farm yesterday, and picked up on ice.  For me, this is a sad occasion.   I can and do say to other folks how they had a good life here, were treated well, and this is not a bad way for them to go, and that is true.  I still feel a little pang saying good-bye to those old girls. 

Future soup and hotdish
So, all in all, a pretty full week-end!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September chores

Wow, how this month is flying by!

Kevin and Rollie spent yesterday at a Firearms Safety Training Field Day (they are instructors) helping another group of folks be safe and confident with their guns.  Today Kevin got busy plowing and was at that ALL day. 
While he plows, Kevin is constantly looking forward, then back.  There's a lot more to it than just sitting on the tractor enjoying the view

And the view is enjoyable indeed!  This is south of the house

And compare this with the same picture from last week... quite a difference

As for me, I had to be in the house quite a bit, but we now have more tomato sauce and peppers in the freezer. 

Have a great week friends!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September Saturday

At 3:45 I must say it's been a darn nice day here... Sunny on and off, windy though.  Sun is off at the moment and there are ominous storm warnings coming from NOAA. 

I will put out a quick update here, then more things to take care of.  Started the day in town with a run with a friend, visit to the farmers market, and errands.  It's always great to visit the friendly folks at the farmers market, although I didn't find the two things I had hoped for:  honey and paste-type tomatoes, like Romas.  I have plenty of tomatoes, in fact will be cooking up some more sauce tomorrow, but would like to make some salsa for canning and the less juicy varieties work much better.  I lost mine at the seedling stage, blame my forgetfulness on that one.

Anyway, have tomatoes ripening in the garage, and picked a bunch more today.  Here they are in various stages of ripening, with a few little eggplant thrown in.

The goats are producing about a quart and a half of milk per milking, so still a fair amount of milk for us.  I made cheese twice this week.  The batch from earlier in the week was supposed to be mozzarella but ended up being something else.  It looks and tastes like mozzarella, but the texture is more like Velveeta (but made with actual milk and without the chemicals).  I am eating it on salad mostly.  No way to reproduce it on purpose I am afraid, as I don't know exactly what I did wrong!

Speaking of salad, look at these great greens I picked today!  If you look closely you can find leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, and arugula.  Yum!!!

Kurt picked the dried pods of the Jacob's Cattle Beans today.  I will post a picture when we get them shelled as they are so pretty.  There aren't a lot of them as they didn't germinate well (old seed), but perhaps there will be enough to replant next year and a few to cook up.

So, enough for today.  Almost chore time!


Monday, September 15, 2014

About Sunday

Yesterday was such a full day that I did not get a minute to download pictures and put a little blog out here.  Kori came for the afternoon and stayed for pizza and a movie in the evening... awesome to have her here!  I tasked her with helping to remove cockle-burrs from the horses manes and tails. We didn't get them all out, but made significant progress anyway.

Kevin and Kurt were away at a scout event all day on Saturday, so Kevin especially had much to do on Sunday.  He hauled manure out to the field ALL day.  First from the Winter Coop, then from the composted pile in the field of goat poo and bedding, and last the large pile of composted horse poo that just looks like dirt now.  The field south of the horse pasture was the recipient of this goodness.
Three antiques throwing crap around the field!

As for me, I canned and froze some of the tomato sauce made the day before.  Why both?  Well, freezing is easier, but it is handy to have some jars on hand of sauce ready to go.  And I always save a jar for next summer's county fair.
A close-up of some jars of tomatoey goodness

On the left is a squash purchased from our neighbor (I have a total crop failure in the squash department) and on the right is the new variety of pie pumpkin I planted this year.  I think these pumpkins are kind of pretty.  The flesh is very light in color and is supposed to be very smooth.  I cooked these two up yesterday afternoon, but we have not partaken of them yet.  I will give you a report next time on that.

Also did lots of other things of course, starting with making a batch of mozzarella from our awesome goat's milk, and ending with using it at suppertime on that pizza. The goats are still milking at an adequate level, enough to keep us in milk, yogurt for me, and cheese now and then. 

Here are a few random photos from yesterday.
The hens are getting lots of treats these days.  In this photo they are feasting on an under-ripe melon, an over-ripe cucumber, and some ears of sweet corn that got overlooked.  Hen Heaven!

Treats for the goats too... they love anything in the cabbage family, so I have been pulling brocolli plants for them.

Or course Huck had to check that out, but in the end, didn't care for what was offered.

Fall is all about change isn't it?  This is the last view from the milking stand as it is now back in the shop where it is warm.  The field is now brown, but the trees back there are still pretty green.

The combined efforts of Kevin, Rollie, and Kurt have resulted in a completed fence around the garden.  I love it!

Ardis painted this sign for us last spring.  I think it's a good place for it.

See you next weekend!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jack has arrived

For some folks, the change of the seasons from summer to autumn is marked by Labor Day, for others, the first day of school.  Some people exclaim over the first red or yellow maple leaf they see, or just go by what the calendar says.  For me, it’s the first frost.

The published average first frost date for our location is September 23 or 24, depending on what source you check.  That seems a little off (late) by my experience.  Checking my garden book, here is what I have recorded:  2011 September 5 (Labor Day), 2012 September 13, 2013 September 13, and this year it was September 12.  So, we have been pretty consistent lately anyway.  

Frost does not bring the end of gardening activity of course.  It's really just a signal to step things up a bit.  I made a batch of tomato sauce today, and will be canning some and freezing some of it.  There are still some tomatoes undercover out in the garden to take care of, and more in the garage.  
As you can see, the basil is toast, but the oregano and rosemary in the foreground are fine, so I can dry some more of those.

These are some pie pumpkins that I picked today.  The pale one is a new (to me) variety called Winter Luxury, which I planted by accident in the garden instead of out where I intended.  Good thing though as there aren't many survivors of the cucurbit family out there.  The smaller pumpkins appear to be Small Sugar, also a pie pumpkin, which I don't actually remember planting at all but I'll take them.  Some of my onions are drying on the deck in the background.
Remember these little guys?
That was three months ago.  Here they are today:
Coming soon to a freezer near you...

These girls will be joining the laying flock soon
I started cleaning out their winter quarters today.  The flock will be moving house shortly.
 And here is what Rollie and Kurt have been up to this week:

They've been pulling up an old fenceline.  This barbwire was partly in the ground and in the brush and weeds.  Pretty hard work!

Plenty to do around here as usual.  And as usual, not all of it got done today.  Thank goodness there is always tomorrow! Until next time, be well friends!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Just more pictures from BWCA

I am going to put a few pictures here from our recent trip to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  Some of these will be just to illustrate what canoe camping is like, for those of you who have never done it.  Some will be just pictures I like...  I will credit Russ with almost all of the photography.  There may be a couple by Margaret and myself.  I don't think Kevin took many but he may have too.  First some more mushrooms pictures. These are just a few of the endless varieties.

This one was enormous!
These were tiny, growing in moss

this one too
This rock formation was also really neat Next a few portaging pictures:

loaded canoes
the beginning (or end) of a portage
unloading and getting ready to move to the next lake
Margaret double packing
Next some photos from some of our campsites...

Sitting by a firepit

In the "kitchen"
Our last campsite.  Not all are so cozy; many are quite spacious.                          

Some latrines have a great view... some not.  This one was reached by quite a steep trail.
Russ became our designated fire-builder and tender
A view from the towboat... back to the land of flush toilets and cell service!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Back from Boundary Waters

We are home from another excellent vacation to BWCA.  This year's trip will always be special for us because we got to share this beautiful place with Russ and Margaret.  It will also be memorable for me because of three other things... bears, hares, and mushrooms.  I will follow up with a few pictures, but do not have any of the bears and hares.  I had a very brief encounter with a baby bear who very quickly ran off with his mama.  The hares were the first we have seen up there, kind of pretty in their brown coats with dark accents.  One of them was eating a very large mushroom... never would have thought they would eat those...  There were mushrooms all over the place up there, many, many different sizes and colors from pinhead to dinner plate size.  Some of them looked quite delicious, and probably are, but of course we did not indulge in that risky culinary treat.
Heading out... is it still a selfie if there are 4 people in the picture? (photo by Margaret!)
Russ and Margaret on their first BWCA trip together!

Just one of the many fascinating types of mushrooms
Smooth Paddlers
Russ on a portage
Another beautiful sunset in paradise! (photo by Russ)
We arrived home on Saturday just in time for Kevin to join Rollie and Kurt in the field baling up the oat straw.

a bin full of oats waited when we got home
Baling up the straw
Words cannot express our gratitude for the folks who took care of things here at home for us.  Ardis, Rollie, and Kurt.... you rock, and we thank you so much!

Back at home, we haven't had frost, thank goodness!

there are a few apples on the tree

Yeah!  The does came home from goat camp today!  Thank you Hurd family!

Geese glean from the oat field

And I pick a few tomatoes