Monday, August 31, 2015

Marketing the Eggs

North side of the barn

New England Everyday Goods, a local farm store, is now carrying our farm fresh, organic eggs!  I am very pleased with this new development, as I know the owners  and enjoy working with them.
They also take some occasional extra garden produce, like the 5 pounds of organic kale I dropped off today.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Putting the Chickens to Work

 After digging up the potatoes, we moved the mobile chicken coop to that part of the garden. They will scratch and till and eat up bugs and pests, and also eat up the buckwheat planted as a cover crop.   Their work helps prepare the bed for fall mulching and improve the soil for next spring.  Free labor, gotta love it!
A few stragglers havent made it back to the coop yet.  Can you see them out there?

My neighbor said, "Come pick some apples off our trees!"  As you can see, we took him up on the offer, and I think we have a couple hundred pounds of apples to deal with now.  The fun just keeps on coming!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Growing Dried Beans:Worth It or Not?

Chickens are better to look at than beans. We are letting them scratch this up to dirt, to get a head start on new garden space for next year...

From my two rows of pinto bean plants, I harvested 5 pounds of dried, shelled beans. Thats not a huge harvest, but it was in unimproved soil, with no irrigation amd very limited weeding.

Was it worth the garden space to grow something that is so cheap to buy in the store?  Here, pinto beans go for around maybe $2.00 a pound at the grocery store. That means I got about $10 return on maybe 50 cents of seed.   But of course its not just about the cost.  So, here is a list of pros and cons for growing our own dried beans.

All legumes, such as beans, help fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available for whatever I plant in that spot next year.
They are extremely low maintenance.  I never even watered these plants except when I actually put the seeds in the ground.
There is only one harvest, and then the plant is done.
They are easy to save seeds from, for next year's planting.
The harvest will give us about 20 meals worth of pinto beans.
Shelling beans is a nice relaxing activity, something to do while you watch TV.
Free bunny food. The bunnies like to eat the  bean vines after harvest.
Dry beans are the easiest of all foods to store.

Beans are cheap to buy.  So why bother planting?
The row space could have been used to plant another crop, like more peppers or winter squash.  These crops are considerably more expensive if i have to buy them.
There is only one harvest.  Yes, this can be looked at as either a positive (only have to pick once) or a negative (only one crop for the whole season)
Shelling beans takes time.

Well, as you can see, my list of positives is slightly longer than my list of negatives. I think it comes down to space. If garden space were really limited, I would vote against planting them, even though we like pinto beans and eat lots of them.  But, if there is room, I still think it is worth it to plant them. And with better, improved soil next year, they should produce even more.
Since I plan to expand the growing area next year, the bean planting area will actually expand.

Refried beans, anyone?

Front Porch Holding Area

The front porch has become the place to store produce, and to cure things like the potatoes, onions and garlic.
Here are some paste tomatoes ready for canning, some potatoes curing (under the newspaper) and some onions curing.

I have to pick more tomatoes tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Update

Well, the front side of the barn now has windows and siding.

 Here it is, looking from the driveway. Starting to look like a barn.

 Here is the west side, where the stalls are.  You can see the tractor ramp leading up to the hayloft also.

 I am standing on the ramp, looking into the hayloft. The roofing is supposed to get here next Wednesday.

While the guys were working outside, I was in the garden pulling onions among other tasks.  Here they are laid out to cure on the front porch.  Once they are good and dried, i can cut off the stems and put them into storage. The annoyingly small onions will get peeled and chopped up and frozen.

And I finished up the peaches.  And picked a few more tomatoes. There is probably another 30 pounds or more of the paste tomatoes to pick.  My canning days are not over.

Tomatoes, jam, and fruit are three things that preserve well by canning.

All this daily bounty will start coming to an end.  I picked probably the last green beans today.  Will get a few more, but I will let these get mature for next year's seed.  Things are winding down, and its time for seed saving, cover crops, and a few fall plantings.  The tomatoes are actually looking pretty sad too... blight was really bad this year.

So we just enjoy what we have. We often have suppers made entirely from the garden.  Tonight was roasted yellow squash and zucchini with garlic and rosemary, sauted chard, big ol'sliced tomatoes,  sliced cucumbers, baked potato, fresh green beans, and some mini sweet peppers, and even a couple of nasturtium flowers, which are edible and taste lemony and peppery.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Peach Time!

Peach season is my favorite.  There is just not much better than a fresh, tree ripened peach.  I got a good deal on canning peaches, which are usually blemished, or otherwise seconds or culls.  Only these peaches were great, just the occasional hail spot or bruise.  
Anyway, I spent the entire day making jam.  I love peach jam. But really, the stuff has appalling amounts of sugar in it.  Yikes! Definitely not a health food!  However, I look at it like this: our diet overall contains very little sugar, so jam by the occasional spoonful isnt going to kill us .  We dont eat toast and jam that often, but since I make our own yogurt, the fruit preserves make a nice flavoring for that.  And nice gifts too.  I used up about 28 pounds of the 55-60 pounds of peaches I bought.  Jam is slow, because it has to be done in small batches.  Tomorrow, I will  be canning peach slices and that will go much faster.  I ran out of pectin and did a few quarts of slices today. 
I think sometime about mid-January, these peaches will taste mighty fine.

I also pulled some carrots.  Only about 6 pounds here. More to come. I am hoping that by the time I MUST pull the rest of them, the basement will be down to 40 degrees and they can live down there for the winter.

Barn update. The front is getting windows and siding. A major rainstorm halted work early today.

From the driveway. 

These guys (they just make me laugh) didnt mind the rain.  So far, they approve of the barn.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Relentless Farmward Motion

Steve worked on splitting firewood this afternoon.  Whevever there is some spare time, we often spend it getting winter ready. 

In ultrarunning, there is a saying that is sort of a mantra for those in the sport.  It is this:

                            RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION

It means simply, keep moving forward.   Even if it is a slow shuffle, its still progress.  Every step is one step closer to the finish line.  Believe me, at mile 80 something of a hundred mile race, you just want to sit and rest.  And it seems those last 20 miles are an insurmountable challenge. But  "relentless forward motion" will get you there.

Similarly, we keep plugging away at all tasks necessary to make this place a farm.  There are some really big tasks, and lots and lots of little tasks.   There isnt much time to relax, or just sit around.  Thats not to say we dont enjoy some down time, but there is much work, and it has to get done.

So I  call this

                           RELENTLESS FARMWARD MOTION

Some of the tasks we worked on this weekend included clearing brush, raking out and leveling ground around the barn, digging out stumps, seeding grass in cleared areas, harvesting veggies, putting up peaches,  and canning salsa.

This is part of a drain and retaining wall on the west side of the barn.  Still in progress.

We re-seeded that bare area with grass seed. It doesnt seem like much, except that before we could rake that area smooth, a large spruce stump had to be removed. It took steve and our neighbor Carl about a half day's work dìgging and cutting, and then, finally, the big backhoe had to come and pull it out.

Similarly, along the stone wall, there were many many MANY roots and stumps and weeds.   After digging those out, with the help of the tractor on one of them, more dirt was brought over, leveled, and weed barrier cloth put down. It will be mulched later this week.  Then grass seed was spread in the bare area.  We had to clear this area because the insurance company requires a fence .

This is part of the 60 pounds of tomatoes I picked.

And here is the beginnings of some salsa from some of those tomatoes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Monster Tomatoes

These heirloom variety tomatoes, Brandywine, have been really large.  Thats a quart jar in the top photo for size reference, and my hand in the bottom pic, but they seem bigger in real life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Barn East and West

 The east, and lower, side of the barn has boards and windows!  I know, its exciting for me too.....

The west side, which is the uphill side, is just beginning to get some framing.  There are two horse stalls, a center aisle, and the tractor ramp on this side.

Meanwhile, the pinto beans are drying on a couple of old window screens on the front porch.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Barn

 The first posts for the horse stall part of the barn are going up. This probably doesnt look like much yet, so stay tuned.
This is taken standing inside one of the stall areas. You can see the tractor ramp going up to the hayloft. We are on the uphill side of the barn now.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Barn Raisin'!

The top floor of the barn is up. These walls and roof trusses were built off site, and delivered here on a boom truck. It was very interesting to watch as the boom lifted each wall and sat it down in place. The crew would then nail it down and plumb it before the next wall was moved into position.

 While the first level was built more in a post and beam fashion, the top story is stick built. The floor of the hayloft, shown above, is resting on several large posts, with a huge beam down the center. The floor itself is comprised of 2 " thick hemlock boards. We can drive a tractor up there for hay delivery no problem.
 The guys are using springboards to get the wall square before final nailing down. It was an interesting, low tech, effective method and i can imagine this was used generations ago to square up construction.  The boards can be propped up to whatever degree necessary to plumb the wall by placing shorter boards underneath. They bend, or "spring" as needed.

 Once the walls were up, the roof trusses were hauled over.

Second floor is done! It will go fast now. The sheathing, metal roof, and then the shiplap pine boards for the exterior will go on in the next week or so.

We have pre-stained all the siding. Barn red of course!

Meanwhile, I am preserving garden goodies. Here is a tray of delicious bread and butter pickles sitting in the brine.

We broke down and bought a small chest freezer off craigslist. I put the sweet corn from the garden and some zucchini and some basil pesto from the garden in there already.

The pantry stores down cellar are starting to fill up. Its a good feeling. Many of these jars contain dehydrated or fermented food. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cabbage Trick

Do not feed the dog cookies. Pay no attention to his eyes...
So you have these beautiful cabbages growing in your garden. 
And once you cut them, thats it, right?

Well, not necessarily!

Two lovely cabbages
When you harvest, dont pull the whole plant up, or cut it off right at ground level beneath all the leaves.

Pull back the first set of looser leaves beneath the firm round head of the cabbage, and cut it above them. You are leaving several sets of big outside leaves on the plant.

If you wait a few days......

Tiny new cabbage sprouts begin to form around the cut edge.

Can you see the baby cabbages forming?
Give it a week or so, and you can harvest a second time from the same plant. These little sprouts will not get big, about the size of a golf ball maybe, but will be tender and tasty, sort of like cheater brussel sprouts, which I have never had luck growing. Saute with a little butter or olive oil and yum!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sweet Corn

I picked the sweet corn today.  I only planted a small amount.  And,  I should have planted successive crops so we could enjoy the goodness over the course of several weeks.  Most of this went into the freezer.

As much as I hate adding another electrical appliance to the house, we are getting a small chest freezer for the basement.
The small freezer compartment of our refrigerator is already at max capacity.

I wonder if the goaties will eat the corn stalks?  They always try to sneak a few bites of the leaves when we walk past.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Filling the Pantry

Given our very short growing season, being able to preserve the bounty is important, and sometimes has to be done in small frequent bursts of work, as the produce becomes ready.  It took most of the day for me to do what is pictured here.

Two quarts of kimchi
One half gallon fermented kosher dill pickles
Sourdough starter
6 pints of salsa
A gingerbeer starter, which actually has been going for about a week now, but I am about to use it for a batch of ginger beer!
Zucchini in the dehydrator

This photo also demonstrates 5 different ways of preserving food.
Lacto-fermentation: pickles and kimchi
Wild yeast fermentation: sourdough
Canning : salsa
Dehydrating: zucchini
Cultivated yeast fermentation: ginger beer.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mystery Marauder

 Something decided to sample our cabbage. Just the one cabbage, so far at least.  Since this garden is fenced, we surmised it might be a small porcupine that could climb the fence, or possibly a raccoon.  But, given that there are ripe tomatoes, crispy kale and sweet corn, cabbage seems an odd choice. We will keep an eye out.
Critter damage, along with insects, diseases, and weather related damage, like big hail or high winds, are to be expected.  You gotta plant extra, and be prepared.  And some years, the pests win anyway..
I lost most of the feed corn crop to turkeys and deer, the winter squash and pumpkins, and now the cucumbers, have been devastated by blight and vine borers.  The potatoes will also be almost a total loss.  Thats just the way it is.

I do have a theory though, that truly healthy soil, biologically active and mineral balanced, pròvide the plant some immunity against diseases, and maybe even reduce some insect damage.  It is like our own immune system.  If it is strong, we just dont get every little cold or flu that goes around.
As some anecdotal evidence of this, the couple of squash plants that came up from the compost pile, where the soils is especially rich, are noticeably bigger and healthier, and have so far been completely unaffected by the blight, or powdery mildew, or even insect damage..  The tomatos growing in the former chicken run, with really rich compost, are twice the size of the other tomatoes, and no sign of blight, even though they are within a few feet of affected plants.
So, that being said, creating healthy soil seems pretty important, doesnt it?
The egg production is picking up. This is two days'worth.  I am getting about a dozen eggs a day, and that should increase to 2 dozen by the end of this month. Notice my liesure time reading choice.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


I definitely need a larger basket for collecting garden goodies.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pepper Plenty, Potato Pestilence

Today's haul of green chiles, with a few tomatoes and a zuke and cuke.
It looks like a good pepper crop this year. The hot peppers are producing an abundance, and the sweet peppers are loaded.

Not so fortunate with the potatoes however. It looks as if Potato blight has attacked the entire crop. It has been very fast moving, and at first I thought it was due to the potato beetles. Its too late now to save the plants. There is nothing to do at this point but cut down all the plants and get rid of the diseased foliage.   Then, the recommendation is to wait 3 weeks before attempting to dig up any tubers... to hopefully give the offending organism time to die off in the surface of the soil. This means my potato crop will be nill to very small.  This is the same disease that caused the Irish Potato famine back in the late 1800s.

Its too bad, as  three of my main storage crops -potatoes, winter squash, and the flint corn-have all been very hard hit by either insects or other problems, and I will see only very small returns this year.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Waiting for the sun

Moisture hangs heavy in the early morning air.

Morning, early, when I head out the door to start the chores, is definitely the best part of the day. How very blessed we are!

First rays of sun hit the ancient oaks up in the horse paddock.

Sun begins to rise over the trees.

The sweet hum of pollinators fills the air. They are doing important work!

The garden is covered in dew and the air is fresh and clean.