Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Tough Winter

Winter started late again this year and has turned into a monster. Morning temps are evidenced by the above picture are lately the norm. Boy, am I glad I dug out the wood piles and refilled the wood stacks in the garage before we started getting the non-stop storms. Having a fire in the wood stove sure is nice.

Snow storms have been coming non-stop. It takes Tom and I about three days to shovel everything out -- just in time for the next storm. Keeping up with the snow is hard. He is ready to move and I say he can go if he wants. I'm not going anywhere. Moving the snow is hard work, but I am grateful for the opportunity to exercise my muscles, solve problems like where to put the snow and how to take care of the chickens in extreme weather, and test my critical thinking skills regarding "what would I do if . . .". I can't do any of that living in some shitty little condo back in the city. I believe in being self-sufficient and getting older simply presents me with an exercise in adaptive living.

The chickens are doing remarkably well. No frost bite to deal with and I haven't lost any of them yet. When we had the -50F nights I spread a couple of bales of hay in the coop, and just doing that noticeably helped warm the coop. Still, about half the eggs I get I have to toss because they freeze. Those little barred cochin bantams I bought last year are real talkers. I get the biggest kick out of them and can't wait till it warms up so I can clean the coop out well and set up the broody box for them. With their feathered feet the snow doesn't seem to bother them.

I've started a bunch of seeds in the basement and some of them are already starting to come up. I bought a wood stove and may set it up in the greenhouse (which miraculously has not collapsed with the ice and snow) to keep seedlings warm overnight.  Australian Brown and Newburg onions, New Brunswick and red cabbages, rainbow chard, Champion collards, Tuscan kale, and lots of perennial flowers. I'll wait till May to start the squashes and cucumbers. Supposedly it will be a cool and wet summer. We'll just have to wait and see.

Here are some pics of the snow around the house. We had three more inches after I took these pics and we are expecting another 5"-8" again this weekend.  By the way, I'd like to thank whoever the good person was who moved the big snow banks at the front of our driveway. Our snow plow couldn't move the snow back any farther than we had it so your act of kindness has given us some place to put the incoming snow.  Thank you!

Tom may be right saying that we'll still have snow in June. As far as making maple syrup this year, well, that's up in the air for now. I'm glad Dad is in the nursing home; it would be really hard worrying about him if he was at the farm house and dealing with our issues, too. Thinking positively, when the sun does shine the days are beautiful, and Spring IS on the way!

Friday, September 21, 2018

White Patty-Pan Squash

Our biggest seller this year at the farmers market was the heirloom White Patty-Pan summer squash, and I had so many people ask how to use it that I thought I would show you one way my family likes to eat it.

This dish can be made ahead and baked later, if desired. If you are going to cook it right away, lightly oil a 9" x 13" baking dish (I like coconut oil) and turn your oven to 350°F.

First I wash the squash. I like them to be larger sized. Many people prefer "baby" squash, but for me, a larger squash has more flavor. Don't let them be too big though because the skin on an older squash can grow too tough to eat. 

Use a sharp knife and cut around the stem (pretend you are starting to carve a pumpkin). Be careful not to cut through the bottom!

Pull off the stem and use a spoon to help clean out the inside.

Arrange the hollowed out squash in your baking pan and set aside. Now make whatever filling you want. Here I used ground venison, corn, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme with an added can of tomato sauce and some shredded mozzarella cheese.  Use your imagination when making your filling. Bacon anyone?

Now fill your squashes and top with more cheese if you like. (I had extra filling so I spooned it around the squashes.) Cover the pan with foil and put in the refrigerator to bake later, or put it in the oven now and bake about 45 minutes until heated through and the squash pierces easily with a fork.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Winding Down the Garden Year

Oh, my, how the year has flown. My good intentions to post here more often went by the way. It just seems to take more energy and time to get things done!

The garden year started off uncertain as the weather seemed confused. Cold, then hot, then cold again. Only days before I took this picture we had a good 2' of snow on the ground. You could not tell there were garden boxes in the yard. Then it got hot and all the snow vanished.

I got everything planted by the new moon in June, and by the end of July the garden was growing well.

These were my four patty-pan summer squash plants from one of the garden boxes in the back yard. I could not believe how well they produced. I had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, too.

Lara was excited for us to finally get to the farmers market in Park Falls. It really is fun to go to the  market! It's been so nice to renew acquaintances with the other vendors and to meet old and new customers.

Sadly, the deer devoured my big garden over at Dad's again, and I firmly resolve to get a fence erected around that garden spot. I lost all my winter squashes, corn, pumpkins, melons and tomatoes. They also munched to death the four apple and pear trees I started in a new orchard. So, enough is enough. Next year is sauerkraut year. I plan to grow lots of cabbage and I don't want the deer to get it.

I did notice a curious increase in customers wanting to buy finished, value-added products over raw produce. As a grower this disturbs me. I would much rather see people buy the raw produce and prepare it themselves. 

Since we did not have much to sell, we are finished going to market for the year. I am working hard to clean up the garden boxes and work my way through the forest garden. It looks like I may actually get ahead of my pruning and trimming tasks before the cold weather sets in again.

I have started red and black currant cuttings in the green house and am trying to see if I can get plum and peach trees to sprout from seed. I also have several kinds of hot peppers I started from seed in the greenhouse, but they are coming on so late that I fear I will not get any peppers from them.

Out in the forest garden I am enjoying my first plum harvest. I have enough plums to make a batch of plum jam. It isn't much, but I am so happy my trees are getting old enough to bear fruit. The hazelnuts look great, the new row of black elderberry plants took off grandly, and while the black and red currants didn't bear much fruit because they need to be pruned, they are also healthy. The rhubarb and horseradish in the hugelkultur bed are massive, and the grapes and hops are happily filling the trellis fence. Only one of the grape vines bore fruit this year, but it, too, was enough to me to make at least one batch of jam. I will be ecstatic when the apples and pears begin to fruit. 

Lately we have had a lot of rain and there is flooding both north and south of us, but thankfully we have been spared any trouble. Dad is still at the farm and doing well.  I am still on my diet and half-way to my goal. I am determined to reach my goal!

Canning, cutting a trail out to Tom's deer stand, and cleaning out the chicken coop to ready it for the winter are next on my "To Do" list. Might was well "make hay while the sun shines," as the adage goes.

Hopefully I'll post again soon. Take care!