Monthly Archives: September 2014

Seed Saving – Beans

 

I previously posted this on my old blog.  I decided it would be good to re-post it, as this is the time of year to save your bean seeds.  I include some updated notes which are in italics.

Saving seeds is a great way to be even more economical in your garden.  Every time you are able to provide something for yourself and therefore not purchase a product, you are closer to closer to self-sufficiency.  It’s better for the planet, and it is just neat to watch the way the natural world works.  Also, the process of selecting the beans that work best in your garden and your climate

Today, I’m going to talk about saving some seeds from Dragon Tongue Beans. They were fairly tasty, and looked rather awesome when they were growing. They were purple speckled (and had beautiful flowers.)

At the end of the bean season, I left a few beans on the vine to dry out naturally.  The area isn’t the prettiest, but to me it looks like more nourishment for next year. 

The unpretty patch of beans:


I pick the pods from the patch:


This is an individual pod, so you can see what it looks like all dried out:


Now, I simply split the pod open.  Please excuse the dirt under my nails as I was out in the garden playing):


These were the fruits (perhaps beans?) of that single pod of labor:


Here were the beans from the rest of my labor (I love the pretty color purple!):


There were some brown beans in the pods.  I removed those, as I thought they didn’t look very fertile.  But what do I know.  I may be wrong on this one.  I may also be right.  I have no brown beans.  I didn’t notice whether these germinated or not, I did plant it, though.  Experiment and see what works:


I stored the dried beans in an old glass baby food container and will plant them next year.  This task was easy, and relatively quick and really fun.  I will continue to save seeds as the sense of personal satisfaction is HUGE. I had a great harvest of beans this year.  So many we couldn’t eat them all.  The entire process of saving the seeds, planting the seeds that I saved, and then cooking up the beans from those plant was incredibly cool.  Give it a try this year, or plan to do it next year.  I think you will really enjoy the process.

Types of Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is an herb that has many uses: cooking, medicinal, companion planting and vampire repellent. Today, I will discuss the different types of garlic, and will continue with a series of posts discussing planting, and using garlic.

A bulb of garlic is made up for four to 20 cloves of deliciousness.  Each clove is covered with a papery skin that needs to be removed before using it for cooking.  There are many varieties of garlic which can be classified into two categories: hardneck and softneck.

The softneck category can be planted mechanically, stores longer, grows in more climates, mature faster, and are more productive forming more cloves on a larger bulb.   All of those reasons contribute to why this garlic is preferred by commercial operations and processors.  This type can be braided.  Softnecks do not generally bolt and therefore do not produce garlic scapes or seed.  This may be why more cloves are present in each bulb upon maturation.  The flavor is generally milder  and more “vegetable like” than the hardnecks.  There are two varieties of softneck garlic: Silverskin and Artichoke

Artichoke: This is the primary variety propagated in California and shipped around the country.  This is the easiest to grow and will mature in even warmer climates.  There are several cultivars in this variety with a range of flavors ranging from mild to strong.

Silverskin: This variety grows happily in the widest range of climates.  They store the best out of any of the garlics, but they are the last to mature.  This variety has a slew of cultivars with varying pungency, colors (both in the clove and foliage), and harvest time.

Hardnecks have a long flowering stem (garlic scapes) in the middle of the bulb.  Removing this scape during growth will cause the plant’s energy to focus on the bulb, causing a bigger bulb for you to eat (and you can eat the scape!).  Due to the central stem, which gives the bulb a “hard neck”, this variety cannot be braided.  This type of garlic is more colorful and yields a greater variety of tastes.  There are three main varieties of hardneck garlic:

Rocambole: This is the most widely known and therefore most cultivated hardneck garlic.  This variety is preferred by chefs for its deep full bodied flavor and cloves which are easily peeled.  The biggest downside with this type is its lack of storability.  This variety stores well for about 6 months.  They also grow best in zone 6 or cooler.

Porcelain: This garlic has huge cloves that store well, second only to the Silverskin.  Porcelain garlic tends to be the hottest, strongest garlic and thus packs the biggest wallop when it comes to medical advantages.  This hardy garlic does best in Northern climates, but will produce as far south as Texas.

Purple Stripe:  Unsurprisingly, purple streaks decorate the outside of this bulb.  They have a more mild flavor than the Porcelain, and when baked become almost sweet.   This is the garlic that is usually baked or roasted.  I read an account of someone who ate some baked Purple Stripe garlic, specifically Chesnok Red, and swore it had the same flavor and texture as ice cream.  While I find this a little hard to believe, I wouldn’t mind trying it myself.  When I do, I’ll report back!

Each type of garlic has its pros and its cons.  It is interesting to note that there is not a single kind of garlic, but many that vary in size, taste and texture, much like apples, peppers, and even green beans.  I recent purchased two types of garlic, Chesnok Red (look out ice cream garlic!) and Music, a Porcelain variety.  I plan to cultivate these over the years and add different varieties year after year.  I would love to set up a garlic exchange next year so we can all diversify our garlic harvest without emptying our pockets.  Variety is the spice of life, especially when we are discussing actual spices.

How to Make Fruit Leather

Kids love fruit roll ups.  I do not.  They are filled with yucky things such as high fructose corn syrup, and dyes.  There is no need for any of this.  You can make fruit leather, which tastes just like roll-ups with 100% fruit.  You don’t even need any special equipment.  If you have some fruit that is starting to get soft, or you have some freezer burned fruit, use it to make your fruit leather.

I have made it using three different recipes and three different methods.  It’s fun and yummy.

First Method and Recipe

The first recipe I made I used those elderberries I discussed in an earlier post.

I also used an apple, a pear, some freezer burn strawberries, some fresh strawberries and a little bit of apple juice to make the mixture the right consistency.

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Put the ingredients into the blender

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and blend until it’s the consistency of a thick milkshake.  Don’t be afraid to taste it.  If it doesn’t taste good now, it won’t taste good as fruit leather.  Make any adjustments needed, such as more apple for sweetness.

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With this recipe, I used a dehydrator with a fruit leather insert.  Not very creative, but it works well.

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Spread it out so the mixture is about 1/4 inch thick.  Set the dehydrator to 145 degrees and let it run overnight (about 8 to 10 hours).  When the leather is done, it will be slight tacky (like me), a little shiny, and much like a fruit roll-up.

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Second Method and Recipe

As it is fall, and the pumpkin season, I made a pumpkin-apple leather.  It was an experiment, and I think it turned out well.

I used about a cup of pumpkin puree, an apple, a pear, pumpkin pie spice and some apple juice for the consistency.

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Blend this until it is the same consistency as before.  Add apple juice as needed to reach that consistency.  Here’s an action shot:

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I used a dehydrator, but I did not use the fruit leather insert.  I simply laid parchment paper over the rack.  I poke a hole in the middle to ensure air flow.  I let the wax paper hang over the sides.  I wasn’t worried about that.

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Pour the mixture as before, set the dehydrator for 145 degrees, and let dehydrate overnight.  Same as before.

This method worked fine, but I prefer the first method by far.

Third Method and Recipe

This  method uses things you probably already have in your home.  All you need is an oven, a cookie sheet and some parchment paper.

I had some freezer burnt blueberries, so I decided to make a blueberry fruit leather.  I also added fresh strawberries and some apple juice.

I blended it:

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Cover a cookie sheet with a lip on the side with parchment paper.

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Pour your mixture on to the sheet

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Spread this out with a spoon (similar to the above methods).

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Place it in an oven heated to 170 degrees.  Let this dehydrate overnight, opening the door slightly a few times before you go to sleep to let some of the steam out.

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In the morning you will have fruit leather.  Peal the parchment off the fruit leather and tear into pieces.

Store in mason jars and enjoy!!

The first method is preferred.  Followed by the third method.  I don’t think I will do the second method again.  But if you don’t have a dehydrator, give the third method a try.  You and your kids will both really enjoy this nutritious treat.

A Cheesy Post – How to Make an Easy Soft Cheese

Last night, I made cheese and I found it to be pretty darn tasty, pretty darn easy, and pretty darn cool.

This is basic soft cheese to which I decided to include lots of fresh herbs.  You can add whatever herbs you have in your garden.  I really think fresh herbs are the way to go with this cheese.

What you need:

Ingredients:

  • half gallon of milk – I used raw milk, make sure what you use is NOT Ultra-pasteurized.  That denatures the proteins, and you won’t get cheese, you’ll get a mess)
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice – I used the juice of two lemons, but the rule of thumb is that one lemon should yield a 1/4 cup of juice.  This doesn’t have to be exact.  As long as it’s about 1/4 cup. You can even buy lemon juice, but if you’re making cheese, I suspect you’re the type to squeeze the juice.
  • Fresh Herbs – This is where you make the cheese something you like.  I used fresh parsley, garlic and salt.  This is what I fresh and on hand.

Equipment:

  • Large Pot
  • Spoon
  • Thermometer – you needed this to make homemade yogurt, so I’m sure you have it on hand from that project.
  • Sieve
  • Bowl
  • Cheese Cloth – This can be washed and used again.
  • Rubber Band

Let’s get started!!

Pour a half gallon of milk into your pot, and turn stove onto medium high heat, stirring often to assure the milk does not get scalded.

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Once the milk reaches about 180 degrees F, and do not allow to go about 200 degrees.

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add your lemon juice,

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And Stir.  At this point it will start to curdle.  The solids are the curds, the liquid is the whey.

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Remove from the heat and hands off the mixture of lemon juice and milk for 15 minutes.  While you are waiting, place your sieve on top of the bowl:

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Add the cheese cloth to the sieve.

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While waiting for the 15 minutes to pass, this is a good time to chop up your herbs and get them ready.

When those 15 minutes are over, pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth.  The whey will flow through and the curds are what you will be turning into cheese.  I added my herbs at this point.  I added about 1/3 cup of fresh chopped parsley, 3 Tablespoons of Salt and two small cloves of fresh garlic.  This cheese is garlic heavy, so you may only want one clove.  Or none.  This is where you get to put your spin on this recipe.  Have fun, experiment and make it your own.

Stir these herbs in.  This will cause some more of the whey to come out.  You’ll want to allow this to drain for about an hour.  The best way to do this is to hang up the cheese inside the cheesecloth using a rubber band and your cabinet.  Remember to keep a bowl underneath the cheese to catch all the glorious whey.  Please save this whey.  This is packed full of protein and can be used as a smoothie additive and is an ingredient when lacto-fermenting foods.

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After letting it drain for about 2 hours, scrape the contents of the cheesecloth into a storage/serving container and give a final mix.  Also, give it a taste to make sure that you don’t need to add any more herbs.

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This cheese is best enjoyed on a rye cracker or freshly made crusty bread.

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I hope you enjoy making your own cheese and putting your own spin on it.  What herb mix are you going to try and how did it work?

A Hankie-Panky Post

Have you ever had to blow your nose and you either had to use a hard scratchy paper towel or you had nothing so you had to sniffle continuously?  Or maybe all of your tissues have been turned to scraps from you using them one too many times?

Whether you call it a hankie, a handkerchief, or snot rag, it’s a great way to make your life more simple, and reduce your waste.

Here are the reasons I primarily use a hankie:

  • It’s soft – So it may not be as soft as the super lubricated tissues you can buy, but they are sure softer than a paper towel.  As long as I don’t have a major case of the sniffles, my hankie keep my nose happy.  When I do have a major congestion or runny  nose, even those super soft tissue still hurt.  If you get a cold and you want to use lotion tissue, then do so! There is no exclusivity contract you sign with your hankie.
  • They are strong – how may times have you had a limited supply of tissues, and you use one until it’s thin, and all wet.  Yuck.  You will not have your hankie fall apart from use.
  • No messes in the washing machine – How many times have you or a family member forgotten a tissue in your pocket to only find it later all over your freshly washed clothes in you washing machine.  This won’t happen.
  • No extra work – To clean them, simply wash and dry with your clothes.
  • Costs less and better for the environment than Tissues – A reusable item versus a one-time use item.  The reusable items wins this one every time.  And even if your tissues are from recycled material, a reusable item always wins.  Plus you will never run out, your hankies will always be there.
  • Multiple uses – You can use it to dry your brow, as a head band, or a blindfold.  I have even used my handkerchief as a dust mask when cleaning out the chicken coop, or spreading straw.
  • Can be attractive or MANLY – We have hankies in camo, purple, pink and black.  This is clearly much more fun than plain old white tissues.

Making this change isn’t a big deal, and you won’t be able to retire from the cost savings, but it is one piece of the puzzle toward living a more simple and whole life.

Elderberry Harvest

Back in May of this year, I posted about some of the perennials I planted and included pictures.  One of these plants was an elderberry.  Quite frankly, it looked like a stick in the ground:

Elderberry, First planted

Okay, two sticks in the ground.  With a little spurt of green.

My, how four months have changed that.  After producing some beautiful white flowers during late spring/early summer, I got a harvest of berries off of it:

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This harvest of less than a quarter cup is not something that I can even preserve, I have to use it right away, but it is very cool to get a fruit within four months of the initial of planting.  It will continue to get better and better, and most of my work with it is done, all I really  have to do is harvest!! Oh, how I love perennials I have an idea of what I’m going to do with this, but I’m saving it for a future post.  Tune in later!!!!

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Elderberries are mostly used for medicinal purposes and are turned into a syrup.  This syrup can be used to help heal a cough, and also as an antibiotic.  In fact, when Jaxson had what looked like a minor infection, the doctor “prescribed” him elderberry syrup.

 

 

More Hawk News

Since my last post, we have had another chicken meet her demise by the talons of a hawk. A hawk swooped through the one opening in our netting and killed another one of the chickens.  This time it was a fully grown chicken.  Though the hawk didn’t get a chance to enjoy his pilfered meal, due to a panic that set over him.  Once he killed our chicken, he realized he couldn’t simply fly away.  He spent all of his energy trying to find the exit of the run where he came in.  He left the carcass of the chicken on the ground.

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After this we added security to our run.  We strung old fishing line over the openings.  This seems to have worked.  We have had no more hawk attacks.  Although we still have hawks which come in our yard, and eye up our chickens, we have been hawk-attack-free for 5 days.

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Our neighbor, who is an avid-ish bird-watcher stopped by, and the issue of the hawks came up.  He informed us that we are in the middle of a massive migration of the Broad-winged hawk.  Hawk Mountain, which is about 15 miles from our house, counted 888 hawks in JUST ONE DAY.  So, chances are that we are not getting the same hawk time and time again.  This explains why we had two chickens killed in one day.  Also, this gives me some relief that this is a seasonal problem.  I will still be able to have my chickens do my garden clean up for me.

If the hawks wouldn’t be eating my entertainment and egg-suppliers, I would actually be quite excited to be seeing them come through.  Perspective is a powerful lens.  Yet another lesson learned from our land.

 

Restoration Agriculture – A review

I recently finished reading Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard.

This book outlines Mark Shepard’s journey from his childhood in New England to life at his farm at his home in Wisconsin.   As a child, Mark’s family relied heavily on their annual garden and fruit trees to provide food for the family.  He remembers garden work to be hot, laborious and never ending.  The annual garden was a constant fight against nature.  Weeding, watering, planting, a never ending cycle.

He then recounts the food they foraged.  It was cool and peaceful.  They mostly harvested.  They didn’t have to worry about weeds, as every part of the natural system worked together.  These childhood experiences, along with a few books, led him to the restorative agriculture system he uses today.

Mark’s farm in Wisconsin copies natural systems which are conducive to the area which he lives.  Within a small area, he will plant chestnuts, apples, grapes, and blackberries.  Each plant either complimenting each other, or utilizing different substrates of the area.  An area filled with this diverse plant system will produce more food overall.  However, if that same area were planted with all apples, you would harvest more apples, but the diversity equals safety.  If there is a bad year for apples,  the apple producer is completely out of luck.  You can even use this system to harvest wood for fuel and building.

He also expand this system to include animals.  You an have pigs foraging in between the alleys of perennial woody crops, in a paddock shift system.  This means that the pigs move from area to area with just enough disturbance to to enhance the area.  If there are too many pigs in too little an area for too long ( or one of any of those three “too’s”), you will end up degrading your land instead of enhancing it.

This book also commented on how these methods can actually nourish the world instead of “feeding” it.  He discussed the nutrition lacking in corn and our other mono-crops.  This is evident when we see 500 pound adults with Rickets, a disease partially caused by  a deficiency in necessary nutrients such as calcium.  They are clearly getting enough calories, but not any nutrition.  It is possible to be fat and malnourished.

At his farm, New Forest Farm, Mark is also trying to restore the American Chestnut.  The American Chestnut was hit with a blight originating from the Chinese Chestnut.  The American Chestnut was the East Coast’s version of the Red Wood.  When the blight first started to spread, we stupidly decided to cut down all the American Chestnuts to stop the spread.  This removed any trees that may have had a natural genetic resistance to the blight.

Mark is planting thousands of trees in hopes of finding one genetic variety that has resistance.  He does this over planting them from seeds and then using his STUN technique.  STUN stands for Sheer Total Utter Neglect.  This allows for the strongest of plants to survive.  If any tree wants to die, he lets it.  The weeds out the weak genetics and brings the strong genetics to the foreground.

This book is an enlightening read.  It gives hope, and also gives a reason to become active in your food choices.  It offers a new prospective on farming and restoration to the land.  This book is an entertaining and quick read, but beyond informative.

My take aways:

  1. Plant more trees
  2. Plant things you can eat (they still look pretty!)
  3. Plant trees
  4. Eat from a perennial systems. (nuts, fruits, pastured meats)
  5. There is hope.
  6. Plant trees that will thrive in your area.

I do recommend this book.  It has opened my eyes and added to my arsenal of information so that I can make educated decisions.  As I start to design my property and plant with a plan, I will be keeping Mark’s systems and philosophies in mind.

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Attack of the Hawk

Having chickens makes me look at wildlife a bit differently.  Two years ago, I would have been thrilled to have a hawk hanging out in my back yard.  It would have been a treat to get to see a bird of prey on a regular basis.  And if I got to watch a hawk pluck his breakfast from yard, it would have caused elation.  What a neat sight! What a powerful creature.

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Here’s the monkey-wrench in my admiration of this powerful bird: we have chickens.  Hawks eat chickens.  This hawk made meals out of our chickens.  This first happened when I was on my way out the door.  I saw the hawk leaving our front yard with a chicken in it’s talons.  I was a little conflicted, it was neat to see the hawk, but I had a bit more negative emotions about the demise of one of our new 16 chicks.  It was one of the Easter Eggers.  One less blue egg laying bird.

Being that this was our first fatality with all of our new batch of 16, I took this loss in stride.  What I did not take in stride is coming out a few mornings later to see this hawk perched on the outside of the coop causing my girls to cackle in fear.  I was able to grab a picture as he flew away.

Hawk Flies from Chicken Coop

 

A few days later, he got another young Easter Egger, and that afternoon he picked off another Easter Egger, right in front of my husband.  Now we’d had it.

Before this point, we had the little girls free ranging and the big girls in the coop and run.  They shared the coop which was separated by a fence.  They were getting used to each other so that when they were fully integrated, the little girls would not be too bullied by the big girls.

We decided to integrate them fully.  This was a little earlier than we had first anticipated, but only by about a week.  So we took down the divider, and everything went fine.  The little girls would have more places to hide and not as much opportunity to be out in the open as they had when they were free ranging.  We thought this would make out hawk problem go away.  It did not.20140902_072244

Within a few days, this same old stupid stinky hawk (see how my view on the creature has changed) came down and killed my one and only Buff Orpington.  I was not happy (I’m still not fully over it).  So we covered the pen with netting.  There are a few spots that are open, but we have not seen the hawk since we made this enclosure.   I’m crossing my fingers that this works.  I’m also looking for a solution, so that we can move the girls into our portable fencing so they can do the fall clean up on my garden!  I will keep you updated.