Publish or Perish?

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Did someone get the memo?

Somehow between the traveling to wrestling tournaments, and extended bouts of ill health, February garden prep at the Simons Gardens crawls on. No, I don’t have my lettuce started. I wish I had a cool photo of an emerging green house to show you, but all I have is stakes in the ground so far – beeeautifully painted stakes though. Edward likes to do things right. Maybe THIS weekend we’ll assemble the roof and sides..

Meanwhile, the chickens. WHAT is up with these chickens? I have never had so much trouble, or truly I wouldn’t still be doing keeping chickens for  eggs. Although at this point I can’t imagine going back. Eggs from our own yard are so fabulous – it’s hardly worth eating any others, “organic” or not. Still — if we aren’t getting eggs…

Out of ten hens, all winter I averaged 3 eggs a day. Terrible. Seven eggs out of ten hens would be normal.  Laying is improved by plugging in the string of chili pepper lights we have strung up in the coop, providing extended light from 5:30 – 7:30 or so. A couple days now we got 5 eggs!  ONE day last week we got 7 eggs out of ten, now a photo-worthy event. (I wondered if the girls heard Edward plotting their demise…!)  Ours are working girls, not pets, more a farm than a zoo. Animals that are sick or unproductive must be culled. Our gardens in general, our whole effort in growing, is to  learn and to show how much food a family can grow for itself on a half acre in suburbia. It’s a continuing education.

Let me digress for a moment on the uncomfortable subject of keeping of animals for food: I am not opposed to being mostly vegetarian, if I could digest grains and dairy healthfully, that would be possible. Many people cannot be healthy eating the carbohydrates that form the backbone of the American diet, and I, and my husband, and our children are some of them. Then, if you buy food cheap, you have to be ok with inferior food, and an inferior life for the animals that make up part of what’s on your plate. So, we dedicate more of our income to groceries than most Americans do. We want the animals who form part of our diet to have a decent life, for their own sakes and for ours, so we try to buy meat from smaller organic grower operations, close to home.  Smaller farms have more control over the lives of their animals. The less distance it travels, the fresher food is, and the less fuel it takes to get it into our kitchen. If we had the space we might raise more animal food ourselves. Then you really have control over what they get to eat, and how often they pasture.

Having said all that, it isn’t easy to do it right. Raising good food takes education, and patience – and in our country too few buyers seem willing to reward our farmers for the terribly important work they do by paying well for quality edibles.

To prove the difficulty, I look at my chicken flock. I think about what kind of care they re getting. I wonder what I am missing. Could it be that the wild birds who keep getting into the run are dropping diseases? Despite all my research, and yogurt feedings, apple cider vinegar in their drinking water, the poopy backsides continue on most of the flock. (Called Vent gleet)  I dusted them all for lice in the fall. The test for parasites came up negative. I cleaned out the coop, put down new straw everywhere in the run. The girls rotate on four paddocks, two of them grassy. They get daily kale and extra seeds. They seem very happy. But they don’t lay.

Lately the girls have been getting extra snacks helping out in the garden beds in their messy way – scratching out bugs and larva (who knows what they’re getting – amazing eyesight!) Although they kick the dirt around, the long term benefits are real.  I come around after them and put the top soil back where it goes, covering the roots of the perennial plants again.  Last Sunday I called them over to the asparagus bed, hoping to wipe out the beetle larva that are certainly over-wintering there. I weeded in the sunshine, and they scratched alongside.

Before we cull, I have one more idea. I have a friend whose husband …looks at poop for a living. (Hey, somebody has to do it.)  He’s a professor of poop actually, at George Washington University. Maybe I can barter some scientific examination for some salad dressing.  John is a big fan of Edward’s Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.  

But as Harvey Ussery says in his helpful book about gaining food independence, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, “The recuperative powers of a chicken following even quite serious injury are astounding…On the other hand, where illness is concerned chickens pretty much have two settings: “On” and “Off.” Once a chicken has become ill, the chances of recovery – while not impossible – are so low it makes sense to cull immediately.” (p 218) (Note that Ussery hardly ever has any illness with his flocks though, because his careful management of the flock imitates nature in every way.)

Forgetting this advice, last fall I spent $100+ to find a cure for White Chicken, only to learn she was far more ill than I knew. Until then I had been far too practical to ever take a chicken to the vet — and I’ll be far too practical to ever do it again. The clock is ticking, chickies. For both of us.

Growing Our Healthcare

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Oooh! scary title! — But this is actually not a post about politics, but about growing your own healthcare products. Time to start thinking about your summer gardens!…

Edward meets all kinds of interesting people through work – he’s the CEO of his own company Safeware, a safety product distributor.  A few weeks back over a business lunch he met Susan, who sells protective garments during the day, but in her other life is an avid gardener and a member of the Weston Price Foundation! She told him about how she makes fermented vegetables and grows much of her own food. He was impressed that under that mild mannered business exterior there lay such a warrior for sustainability! Susan also told about growing herbs for healing, and about the success she’s had with the Calendula Salve she makes for herself. When he relayed their interesting conversation to me, I asked the obvious question. “Hey! could we buy some of that salve from her?”

Next thing I know, a package arrived with this little pot and Susan’s leter about her personal experiences growing and using herbs to heal – which I share below with her permission. Let this be a lesson to us all:  we ordinary people who grow our own food (and medicine) are EVERYWHERE!!

Now, in grey February, is a good time to get re-inspired: We can grow our own organically raised food, yes in our suburban back (and front) yards. We can make a difference to our health and our pocketbook, in this same action. And there is always more to learn about how to try again, to do it better.

“Hi Wystan,

I am Susan …and I had lunch with Ed and Daric on Thursday. (…) 

Ed asked if I made cookies over the holidays, and I told him I probably do not eat like many people. Then I told him I’m a WAPF [Weston A. Price Foundation] member, and he said that you guys are in this not quite mainstream world as well. I make sourdough bread, kombucha, eat grass fed beef, pastured eggs, raw dairy, use real lard and coconut oil extensively, make cream cheese and whey from excess raw milk (and love to eat it). I grow a decent sized garden (60 x 30ft) plus about 6 more raised beds (…). I also have a few plots that I use for herbs and medicinal plants. 

I shared the story below about calendula. He told me you were interested, so I’ve searched your email from your blog and am sending this info.

All of this is a continuous education for me, so I cannot say I do any of it perfectly. But I enjoy the learning. Over the last couple of years, I’ve grown and dried comfrey, yarrow, holy basil, (tulsi), plantain, and others I don’t remember. I tincture some of these, and with others I also infuse oils. I usually turn oils into salves.

Twice over the summer I cut a finger that took a while to stop bleeding. I went to the comfrey “patch,” broke off part of a leaf, chewed it, held it to the cut for about 5 minutes, and put a bandaid on it. By the next day, I could not feel the cuts. Usually a paper cut hurts for days. The comfrey immediately sealed these injuries. I have used comfrey salve, but most salve recipes make a firm salve, as firm as lip balm. I think the creamier, less dense salves are better for injuries. To get creamier salves, I am not using half the beeswax called for in such recipes. 

I grew calendula for the first time over the summer. It was late in the season when I realized I should infuse oil from the flowers. I gathered them and followed the process below. I left the flowers in the olive oil for about 10-12 weeks. Just before Christmas, i made salve, and used half as much beeswax as the recipe called for. (I added a pinch of tumeric powder to make a darker color – easier to identify, and one website suggested it).

Two days later I burned a finger on a stove (second degree – blistered fast). I put it under cool water and then remembered that calendula is for skin tissues. I put some salve and a bandaid loosely over burn. I changed the bandaid and used salve before bed. The next morning I could see the injury on my finger, but there was no pain at all. My burns just do not heal that quickly. 

Anyway, I am a believer in this stuff now. I took some to my mother at Christmas. She had a toe that was rubbing the toe next to it and there was a small open sore. I tried the calendula salve. Within two days the sore was healed. (…) I don’t know what else it might do, but so far I am impressed. I’ve ordered calendula seeds to plant more this year.

Ed mentioned your buying the slave from me. I really only make things for my personal use… but I have no problem at all sending a sample. 

[This] link .. is also good:  http://www.mommypotamus.com/calendula-salve-recipe/

As I said I am no expert, but if I can help in any way, please let me know.

Susan”

 Thanks Susan! you are an inspiration!  Out into the garden I go – we have a greenhouse to finish!

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“What’s she waiting for?”  “I thought that thing would be built by now.” “Bagawk! Typical! Always another project.”   

 

Get Ready—

I have something exciting to show you today. Are you ready?  Ok —

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Tadumm!! WOW!!  The garlic is UP! – isn’t it beautiful?

Could it be that last fall’s kale will over-winter and start up again in spring?

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(Also can someone tell me why the leaves are still being chewed? who knew kale was so desirable??  guess those critters know something!)

And look at the mint, all ready to go! file_001-2

Forty degrees and sunny this morning!  My friend Erin has already ordered her seed for this year’s garden (true, she has a big greenhouse), and it feels like get ready – get set – BOOM!  Before you know it, it will be spring. Yeah I know, I know, Maryland’s biggest snowfalls come in March. Ever since I married 25 years ago my husband has been making that remark, and some years it’s true and some not.  The weather is so wacky these days that anything could happen. But the POINT is that this garlic knows what to do, and so should you. Put those roots down into the soil and STRETCH! (Did you do your planks today? Hmmm? I did mine! Edward is up to four now, so I had better get cracking.)

Now it’s time to — get paper and make garden plans.

This winter we have been looking with shock and horror at last year’s expenditures. Since one thing I refuse to economize on is as many organically raised edibles as possible, I will be looking for

A) how to get as much food from our garden as possible this year, and

B) how to put up as much food from our garden as possible.

“Putting up” means canning probably, as well as the dehydrating and freezing that are easier. That will be next fall’s job. I know I can capture more than I do. Did you catch my re-posting of Shannon Stronger’s blog post on canning? (She’s inspiring – here – Nourishing Days ) This means next August I will have to face something I am very afraid of: the pressure cooker canner. Got one at a yard sale, and there it sits. I may ask Mary, the accomplished older lady who used to own it, to come over and give me a lesson. I am truly terrified of this thing. I feel like I will mess up and it will explode. Silly. But long before the pressure cooker canner, we have to start growing the food.

The first task for “getting as much food as possible out of a garden” is to extend the season – start early. Which means GREENHOUSE. Without a protected environment even in sunny Maryland we cannot hope to eat food form our garden til midsummer. I hope to get lettuces, greens, and radishes, maybe even the elusive broccoli started very soon, and be eating them in March. Now Edward and I have talked for years about putting in a really cool greenhouse – built into the bank maybe, facing southeast. We love to build things, to renovate things…. But building a greenhouse will not do much for the budget.  Oh yeah, that. So, my plan is to wrap a small area of our garden beds on the south side in a plastic enclosure, using sturdy stakes and some of the ornamental plastic sheeting that lies draped about the property here and there, waiting for its next assignment. (Gives the neighbors something to look at.)

Here is my plan:

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Thanks to you all this is actually a lot clearer than most of the sketches I hand to Edward to explain myself when I have a “vision.” So – now that we have envisioned it, all that is left is to actually build it! Oh, that.

I guess I had better get out there locating stakes and plastic sheeting.

 

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“She didn’t even talk about US! Did you notice? Humph!”  “Who wants to hear about garlic and kale??” “I like kale!”   “I can’t lay eggs without publicity.”

 

Supergirls

 

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Yogurt snacks for my Barred Rock

Good January Morning! Garden Update: The parsley is all that’s left, but it’s still going!  Through snow, thru ice, thru frigid nights!  Tough stuff.

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Our parsley – January 11, 2017

What a great symbol for human growth and survival, right? OR for a relationship! And speaking of relationships, gardens, and chickens, today I am re-posting something irresistible – from another chicken lover and writer Lori Odhner.  She always has funny and warm things to say about relationships, marriages, families – and chickens! In this case, all together. Find Lori’s daily postings at her facebook address for Caring for Marriage.

So — Can Chickens Save Your Relationship?

Araucana Chicken, 8 days old, in front of a white background, studio shot
Photo of Super Girl borrowed from Google Images

More than Eggs
There was a popular post on a chicken page that I added to. Someone asked what we had learned by having flocks. Most of the comments had to do with how much we enjoy them, and their endearing personalities. But one woman changed the tone when she said that chickens saved her marriage.

“Before I had chickens I didn’t know how blessed my life really was. My husband and I were on the verge of divorce. We had nothing in common. We didn’t do anything together. We fought over everything. There was no connection. We realized we needed something to do together. A hobby. A reason to connect. With our love of animals we chose to start a small chicken farm. Instead of wasting energy fighting with each other we spend our energy on taking care of our birds. We laugh over the silly things they do. We have learned so much about them. We work hard sun up to sun down together. We do the chores together. We sit and talk for hours on what we can change to make them happy. We talk. We talk to each other again. We have connected all over again. It has truly been a miracle. We cry when one dies we laugh when one does something funny. He laughs. I laugh again. Before chickens he was my room mate. Now we are husband and wife again. My birds saved my marriage.”

I sent her a private message. asking if I could tell her story, and she went on to tell me about her husband’s relationship with their birds.

“They like to roost on his lawn mower and four wheeler haha poor guy! I’m pretty sure they do it because they know it irritates him !! But if you ever get the chance to see a grown man stand there and lecture a bird it’s a sight ! Then the bird jumps on his shoulder and they walk around the yard together buddies once again. Makes the most aggregating days worth it.”

I was moved to hear her story. Then I reread it, and noticed that she had learned that her life was blessed before having birds. But she didn’t realize it. Many of us welcome a fresh day with a couple of eggs. It sounds like chickens gave her and her husband a fresh start to their relationship.
Love,

Lori
Lori Odhner
Caring for Marriage
photo by Joy A Feerrarimg_5678

How Does Your Muscle Grow?

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At least the chickens can still find something to eat out there…

So friends, ’tis true, your garden beds are bare. But there is something that we gardeners can still be growing — even in this dark and dreary, un-gardenable season. You don’t even have to go outside to do it.

Yes, I thought, as I huffed through a plank (yes one plank) this morning, this is the best thing I can do right now to insure a good harvest next season! PLANKS! Eww, sick, I know. But the solid truth is that gardening can be really hard on my bod. During the off season I do a lot more sitting,get soggy in the middle, and have a lot more back, neck, and shoulder pain than in the summer.

Unlike some of you athletic people, I was not endowed with a hearty frame. In fact, I’m pretty proud of what this scrawny ectomorph-ic structure has been able to do. Much as I have always hated to see myself as frail, I was a sickly kid. I spent years eating foods that irritate me, being chronically sick, and carrying Kleenex around in all seasons. I could blame my scoliosis (an S shaped spine) for what I cant do  –  and it is the major reason why the life a real farmer is not for me. But what I do in the garden is great for strengthening me. When I am outside again, hoisting boards, shoveling dirt, and balancing wheelbarrows for a portion of every day, I do better – PROVIDED I have strengthened my supportive muscles.  At 53, I am careful about what movements I make (not bending at the waist, not lifting stuff), but it doesn’t stop me much. I believe in creative solutions.

Isn’t it tragic though how muscle tissue melts away sans regular use?  Sob.  Gone with summer’s golden brown tan. So, I am going to advocate – to myself and you – to grow your muscles this winter season. YOU are part of your permaculture! Yes – don’t fuss now – I am planning on a winter of daily yoga and strengthening!!

There was a time when Edward laughed at me if I had tried to get him to do yoga stretching. I could see how tight his muscles were, but time for stretching was outside his frame of reference. “Yoga, yogurt, and tofu” all belonged in the same phrase to him, signalling what was goofy and not part of his world. But no more. (Although we do not eat tofu)  When Edward developed an incredibly painful, mystery back condition two years ago, stretching out with Rodney Yee every morning was about the only thing that helped.  The pain in his back was healed six months ago, by an excellent acupuncturist in DC.  But AM Yoga with Rodney Yee  is still part of his morning ritual before the dog walk. To enjoy making your garden grow, you need to be relatively strong, and relatively flexible. Flexible in lots of ways…

So, here I go – three months to enjoy my seed catalogs – and do my planks! (Ok,ok, I know… turning off the computer – leaving for the gym….)

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The most muscle in winter garden -last Parsley struggles on

CEOs Grow their Own?

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Salad greens picked this December morning – not that big  a deal for a full-time grower, but we aren’t that. Edward and I struggle to fit gardening into our schedules. He is a CEO and I am a writer, when I am not everything else including landlord, which is my contribution to the cash flow.  We are suburban Marylanders with chickens. I love the idea of calling myself an “urban farmer,” but it isn’t really true (only in the most romantic sense – and the fact that I would consider farming romantic is a dead giveaway). We are growers though, and proud of it.

And those greens, small a harvest as they are, are pretty impressive considering the bed isn’t even tarped up in plastic sheeting, but just sitting out. Oh yes, of course I was going to make a mini greenhouse over the top of those plants! On the south side there – it’s the perfect spot! I can just see in my mind’s eye how to do it. But we haven’t made the time. Still, a bountiful parsley and some tiny kale plants grow, in this semi sheltered garden, with the house between them and the north wind. (That reminds me, I should move the fig over on this side…hmmm)  It just shows what’s possible, if you set out to grow some of your own.

Why would I? you ask. Are you nuts?

Yes I am generally considered to be nuts, but the answer is “It’s yummy.” Our eggs, our peppers, green beans, lettuce – everything grown this way tastes so good. Better than the beautiful, organically grown stuff in my favorite health market. And miles better than the cardboard-y stuff you can get at a big grocery store. There just is no comparison, flavor-wise.

It’s a lifestyle. Edward and I agree that moving soil, planting and growing things, observing how things grow, and getting our life into the rhythm of eating from the garden (that means picking in the morning, not harvesting beans right when you need to be making supper! ack!) is part of us. We love being connected to those earth cycles of growth and decay and regrowth.

Mostly. Let’s be real – there are times when you slave over planting and neglect to prepare the soil as the plant likes it, and watch the blueberry bushes die. Or you plant all the beans and forget to put strings on the bean tower (one of our favorite mistakes) or, worse, you don’t fence the garden and the ever watchful bunny bites through the bean stalk for reasons known only to itself, killing the whole vine. Or you plant a lovely flowering shrub, but forget to water that lovely shrub, and tune back in at the end of August to find a shriveled dead thing in it’s place.  Growing food has joys and sorrows, like anything else.

But the point of this blog is that YOU, the ordinary person, can contribute in a significant way to your food supply without being a hippie  and even if you have no desire to retire to the country and generate your own power or wash your clothes in a stream.  My point is that, in spite of a recurring fantasy about being a farmer, I LOVE suburban life. I love going to the movies, and theater, and having access to the metro (when it’s working).

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Not my life… Photo from Nourishing Days, by Shannon Stronger

I recently got a posting from the blog of Shannon Stronger a Mennonite farmer (check it out Nourishing Days). Now I love reading this lady. She is charming, and inspiring, and honest, loves to ferment foods and has messy kitchen. What could be better? But I could let her passion overwhelm me. I could never keep up with her gardens, or her canning. And I believe that many “ordinary American suburbanites” think that this is what growing your own has to look like – either this, or Martha Stewart the glamour goddess of domestic engineering!  And that just isn’t true. You don’t have to be a totally put together god-dess nor a totally off the grid and self-sustaining to GROW YOUR OWN guru.

It is possible that “you do you” and you do growing food – at least if that firre is in your belly. Of course ya gotta wanna. But you don’t gotta be a goddess, of any description.

Let me add that I admire Martha and Shannon equally.  They both are fighting for the same thing, in the end. They are preserving wonderful knowledge that parents and grandparents used to teach and now mostly no longer know how to teach. I do not resent that. I love what they do. I am grateful. And I am no goddess – just lucky enough to still have some parsley on the south side of my house.

 

Tribute to White Chicken

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Yesterday White Chicken was diagnosed. The real cause of her ill health was “internal egg laying.” There is no certain cause of internal laying, and no real cure. It means that a chicken’s yolks (ovum) begin to be deposited in her internal body cavity, rather than traveling down the oviduct, getting clothed in egg white and shell, and laid.

After a week of nursing her on the dining room, thinking she looked better, it felt bad not to get to say goodbye and thank you.

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Thank you, White Chicken, for two solid years of laying an egg just about every day. I always admired your ability to escape whatever fence I created, so you could go out and forage, but even more I admired that you could always find your way back in! White Chicken, you were unusually smart, and very independent. You got out where you wanted to go, but the fox never got you. You also perpetually thought I was about to kill you, and rushed around in near panic every time I came in with food and water.

Which is why, until she took up residence on our dining room table, there were no up close photos of White Chicken –  except this one, of her with her adoptive mother, the crazy broody Wellsummer Mama:

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White Chicken as a chick

Last night it was comforting to read in my online search that the most likely cause of internal laying is genetics, or how the baby chick was raised or maybe handled. In any case, it wasn’t me.

But still I felt sad all evening.

White Chicken was a really memorable, hard-working, nutcase hen. There is so much to know about animals — so much to learn about any living being you are trying to care for or love! Study is required to do it right. And paying attention. Listening. This October has been a month full of learning for me, in so many ways.

Last night I de-loused the flock. (The vet found lice on White Chicken.) I held each hen on my lap and massaged the powder gently into their skin. At first they panciked, then I hope they enjoyed the attention. At least they should feel better free of parasites. Today I will clear and dust the whole coop. I generally think of myself as providing a good home to my chickens and dogs – but I guess the lesson is that one can always do better. There are always things to learn.  Listen.

 

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ADDENDUM:

Yesterday I learned that my niece had a beautiful baby girl the night after White Chicken’s passing. This is such a comfort. I do not equate a chicken with a human life, still, there a beauty is the thought of a beginning of a life at the time of another life’s ending. I think, once I get to know my grandniece and see if she deserves the honor, I will add to her other beautiful names Liesel Eden the title Little Chick.

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Vent Gleet: Clearing Up Messy Vents in Laying Hens

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Ohoh! You can’t hide and running away won’t help you, honey!

Two of our chickens now have white discharge stuck to their butts, and this morning’s research suggests they have “vent gleet.”  Hooray there are some easy fixes. Sharing this article with with you  – here’s to poultry health!

Messy vents are not uncommon for even the healthiest chicken flocks.  The tell-tale signs of what look like clinging droppings on the feathers followed by eventual feather loss and redness or scald…

Source: Vent Gleet: Clearing Up Messy Vents in Laying Hens

Mary and Marianne

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Mother’s Canning by Marianne Nicholson Gladish

Like so many who survived The Great Depression, my mother’s mother was a big canner. I never knew Mary Scalbom Nicholson in those days – by the time we grandkids were snacking round her kitchen table, or massed around the big green picnic table in the backyard, Grama had given up canning tomatoes and peaches. She still made her famous sturdy brown bread (bacon fat was the trademark ingredient), and beef vegetable soup though. I can remember the taste of each. I loved Grama’s bread, but it workd out best toasted. Woe to to the eater of a sturdy brown bread pb& j; best dunk it in the soup before you bite.

I have a theory that interest in food preservation skips generations. Adult kids of big canners that I know aren’t into it . My mom had no good memories of the process. She could still see Grama sweating over a steaming kettle in August – for something you could buy for ten cents at the grocery store! “Tomatoes are cheap!”she exclaimed to me. Marianne loved the art world, and she saw the two as competitive and mutually exclusive.

But from childhood I had a strong interest in “living off the land” (I loved art too). When Mom told me how Grama would get permission to pick all the wormy apples from a farmer’s tree, then spend hours and hours cutting all the wormy spots out, to make applesauce, I thought Ah! How clever!  The difference in flavor between homemade and commercial applesauce is particularly noticeable. But Marianne may have known at some level she had only a short number of years on earth and she didn’t want to be remembered for applesauce and stewed tomatoes. She did make fantastic, towering lemon meringue pies – works of art! – and yummy soup.

I will be surprised if any of our six highly artistic children wind up canning, freezing, or dehydrating. I’m waiting to share all that I’ve learned about it with the grandkids.

 

 

Harvest Moon Racoon

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One of the exits to Paddocks for the chickens

What a summer! Chicken and veggie adventures!

And here it is harvest again. End of year review — in words and photos:

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June –
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Peeling garlic at the MVA – Oskar’s driving test!

Year in review: 2016 – started out wet, but ended so very dry. Cool spring, so Asparagus came up late this year – (it loved the fall manure Edward put down! lots of new plants.) We got some Strawberries (4 quarts?)  Spring Garlic – we ordered cloves and proved once again don’t buy seed from catalogue! Just buy grocery store (organic). We missed our black raspberries this year – but froze a batch of our blueberries.  Finally a better year for Green Peppers! (But can someone tell me why they would start out strong, and then peter out, making little thin walled fruits??)  Yay Cucumbers!! best production in ages.

Not a super year for Tomatoes here – how about yours?   LOTS of Green Beans!  The usual problems with Summer Squash and low yields – boo hiss!  every single mold and bug that likes to kill squash plants must thrive in our yard, just waiting. Butternuts needed more water early on, so they are small, but many! Great luck with Herbs – I have dehydrated big jars of dried basil, lavender, and sage, and some rosemary.

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August brought us lots of peppers

But my proudest garden moment was this week’s final planting of Lettuce and Kale seedlings in a south facing garden, which I think I can keep going well into the fall. We’ll see.

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September brought us lettuce, greens beans, and herb harvests

 

And then there were the chicken/fox/racoon adventures. img_5100

Chickens added in to increase the laying, and chickens lost. More new chickens added to the remaining flock, and chickens lost again! Terrible. I returned from a summer trip to find multiple carcasses,  and feathers strewn about where a fox had gotten in. We blocked the fox entry (he’d dug under a paddock fence) by driving stakes into the ground. The raccoon invasions and killings were harder to figure out, solved eventually thanks to the bulldog Trumbull, who although he very happy to chew on a chicken himself, can be counted on for ferocious interest in any raccoon that tries it!  Trum scented the first raccoon hanging inside the chicken run, hiding in the dark in the branches of the hated mulberry. (Remember the hated mulberry? It may be scrapped). Edward found the carcass of a chicken, but walked right past that hanging coon, searching the ground and ceiling with a flashlight, until Trum’s intense staring gave the culprit away.

When I was a kid, racoons were my favorite animal –  such cute faces! The awful thing about racoons in a flockster’s world is that they just kill.  They don’t even eat the bird they kill.  I am sure there is some kind of animal logic in there, somewhere. Some reason why. But I no longer like raccoons. Foxes have my respect, they take their kill away and feed their cubs with it. But raccoons break in for the sole purpose of eating the chicken feed!  So why kill the roosting chickens?

We never did educate ourselves about racoon behaviors, but Edward did find the gap in the hard-cloth fencing where coons of all sizes were sliding in, and that was the end of the cycle of killing. We also began calling chickens in at dusk. No more “sleeping out” in the trees on hot summer nights!   Better hot and stuffy in the coop than dragged to a shocking and untimely death.  Our final additions to the flock are three Golden Marans from our local, down the road feed store (local readers find here:  Glen Dale Feed Store) – the marans were a pricey addition, but I decided I wanted some dark brown eggs.

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Our three Golden Marans and an Orpie enjoying grass!

So, what to do with this harvest coming in?  Mostly just eat it.

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September gathering in our messy kitchen

In other years I spent hours canning salsa and applesauce, but I find myself more likely to freeze things or dry them in the dehydrator nowadays. I’d like to come back to canning. Someday. All that steamy work in August/September pays off nicely later, with quicker meals during the winter months. And maybe next year I will learn how to use the pressure cooker canner that is waiting for me, upstairs… if I conquer my fears!  With the higher heat of the pressure cooker, I can put up just about anything (green beans! homemade soup!), where with the usual boiling water bath you can only safely handle high acid foods like fruits and tomatoes. I did start some applesauce last night (not from our fruits, but our friend Joel at the Bowie Farmers Market.  You can always do better, and learn more, about how to grow your own and feed yourself.

But for this year I’m pretty satisfied with the chicken flock safe and laying, some frozen and some dried remembrances of summer’s growing put up, nurturing a couple beds of lettuce and greens to help create October breakfasts and lunches.

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Pinning our hopes on the baby kale for fall–