Tuesday, July 27, 2010

quick update

This is just a quick update post. I need to break the streak of not posting to this blog.

The garden is realy going like gang busters. We are getting three or four courgettes every day. We are starting to get sungold tomatoes by the bowl full daily as well. We have harvested almost all our small shallots along with our onions and garlic. We have let our borloto beans go past green bean stage and now plan to harvest them for fresh beans. We lost one of our towers of scarlet runner beans in one of the recent storms. We seem to be having storms every three days this summer. The ducks are doing well. I cleaned out their pond yesterday and refilled it with rainwater captured from the pole barn.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Apricot Chutney

We have had our first real harvest from our Apricot trees this year. We decided to pick them all off of one of our trees earlier this week as a windstorm was forecast and the fruit was already starting to drop off the tree at the slightest provocation. We kept them in the refrigerator for the week and they have held up well. We needed the time because we wanted to preserve them but were already sitting pretty from last years jelly and jam. So we poled a few experts and they suggested chutney.

We have seen chutney made on a few cooking shows and have loved the store bought chutneys we have had a few times. This was still our first batch and I was a little nervous about getting it right. As we planned on canning the batch it was important to get the acid right. From my internet perusing it looked like around two cups of acid to about 2-3 lbs of fruit was the right ratio for preservation.

The fruit was made up of six cups of chopped apricots and four red onions from the garden along with a cup of golden raisins and some grated ginger . We used cider vinegar and a bit of orange juice for the acid. The recipe also called for one pound of brown sugar and four tablespoons of salt. I trimmed the salt and sugar just a bit. As for spices we added hot pepper, black pepper, mustard seed, cardamom and cumin to a spice bag and cooked up the lot. From there we cooked the chutney down to a good consistency and canned it. I won't say much about the canning part as I am still learning to get it right. So far so good, but I would rather you looked up the proper method in a reliable source like the Bell "blue book".

There was more than this but I took the picture while the first batch was cooling on another towel.

I tasted a bit of the chutney and it turned out great. Hot and spicy but with the sweet tang of the acid and sugar. I can't wait to try some after it has had a chance to come together a bit as chutneys are supposed to get better with age.

Monday, July 12, 2010

First Zuchini

We harvested our first zucchini yesterday night. It was actually two of the round variety. We decided to grill them out as we were already roasting a pan of beets, turnips and garlic with thyme and sage. We decided to grill as it was too hot in the house to use the oven. The squash was great and the mixed roast was quite good as well. We also had our usual dinner salad as well. We topped the salad with some smoked lake trout we picked up on the way home from our weekend up north.

I also wanted to put up a picture of the new runner bean trellis. I got this up a bit late but runner beans have never disappointed me when it comes to rapid growth.

Sometimes it is just so good to be home.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Weekend update

I was going out to the orchard to check on the ducks this morning and noticed how deep green the grass inside the orchard was in comparison to the grass outside the fence. It was my hope that by housing the ducks in the orchard we would be restoring the soil. The soil in this area is incredibly thin and clayish. I think it is actually subsoil that was left behind by excessive turning of the soil in that area. We hadn't realy dug into the soil before having the orchard planted and if we had we probably wouldn't have put the orchard where we did. So now we are stuck with improving the soil around the trees. Last fall I planted clover around the trees and I am sure it has helped as well.

We also gathered these berries last week from around the yard. We planted the raspberries and the strawberries but the gooseberries and the black raspberries are wildings.

We didn't want to let them go to wast but we still have a fair supply of jam from last year so we made them into a galet. It turned out pretty good. I hope to make more out of our raspberries this fall.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yellow dog has gone.

I came in tonight to set out my thoughts about the passing of our beloved farm dog Cooper and found that my lovely wife had already written the most perfect post. She posted over at Lefse and Kimchee. So I will settle for a bunch of pictures instead.

To Cooper.

I hope to someday be as good a man as he thought I was.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garden pictures

The end of the new garden is looking good.

Also the hollyhocks are blooming and the beets are looking good as well.

The potatoes are also in bloom and look to be healthy so far.

It looks like my gambit of winter pruning out one third of the autumn bearing raspberries is working to get me a small early summer crop.

The scarlet runner beans are about to begin their onslaught of our kitchen.

The asparagus was also loaded up with bees this afternoon. I always wonder if it makes their honey smell funny?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cherry Pie part one.

We got the word that there are some strong storms moving into the area tonight and the cherries were looking ripe so we decided it was probably the best time to pick them.

First we had to remove the bird netting that I had put up over the tree. I had not put up netting in previous years and lost most of those crops to the birds. I would recommend it if you have a tree with soft fruit.

As you can see the cherries were in great condition and we certainly had more of them than in previous years. I am not entirely sure why we have so many this year. It could be the clover we planted last year, the ducks providing fertilizer this year or simply the fact that the tree is finally old enough. Whatever the reason we are happy with the result.

Our one tree provided a nice haul of cherries. Jess decided to turn most of them into a pie. She spent much of the evening making the crust and filling and posted about it over at her blog.

There was still a few cups left over, we plan to dehydrate those for use in cherry scones this fall.
Also all the bruised and damaged fruit was thrown to the ducks. The seemed to enjoy them and even came close to watch us finish the picking.

Tomorrow... homegrown cherry pie with Cedar Summit ice cream we bought at Ferndale. It doesn't get much more fresh and local than that!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Falling behind and catching up.

It has been a while since I wrote. I think it has something to do with the natural tension between working the land and writing about working the land.
We have also been up to a few things.
First we held our second annual summer festival at the farm. It was a great success. So many great people came out and joined us and the weather was not that bad. I got a chance to see some old friends Like Sharyn who took some great pictures of the event. I also got to make some new friends like John Scott Auterino who took some great pictures of the event.
My friend Jamie did most of our part of the cooking and it was excellent. He has a good post about it over here. We also collected a big box of food for the food shelves. I would like to raise even more at the fall festival.
We have also been trying to keep up with the new expanded garden. Everything is growing well. It is taking me a while to get everything in but what is in is doing great. I hope to post some pictures some night this week.
We also went and took a class this afternoon on butchering whole hogs with the Scott Pampuch of Corner Table . We had a great time. We broke down some hogs from Hidden Stream Farm in Elgin. Butchering an animal is something that I am familiar with after years of butchering my own deer but there were a few new wrinkles where hogs are concerned. I learned the correct way to remove the jowls for guanciale by first demonstrating that I could cut them out the wrong way. Scott also showed Jess how to hold a knife correctly.

We also brought a bottle of the nocino and helped to "raise awareness" of the fine qualites of good nocino after the knives were put away. We all had a lunch together at a long table in the restaurant. It was a great afternoon and the experience was great. The thing I learned about that most interested me was nettle salt. It looked like dried nettle tops ground fine and mixed with kosher salt. It had a fabulous smell, very green and herbal.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A little something

I just found this site that has many River cottage videos up to watch for free. Not sure about the exact funding and licensing mechanism for the site but it looks legit. So here is the link that will get you guys to many of the river cottage videos.

I can't recommend Hugh enough.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Then there were nine.

While mowing this morning I noticed feathers in the corner of the duck pen and looked closer.It was then that I discovered that I have been visited by a freelance security consultant.

I did a quick headcount on the ducks and learned that my fee for the testing of my electric fencing was in the amount of 2 ducks. Looks like we will start having to usher the ducks into their house and locking the door in the evening. The chickens naturally do this but the ducks have been fond of hanging out under the trees at night. Well no more of that. Also it looks like I will have to arrange a meeting with the consultant before he can evaluate my chicken pen as well.

So Jess decided we should have some strawberries and Cedar Summit ice cream with lunch to take our minds off the loss. She picked a bowl of fresh strawberries and macerated them with some sugar, balsamic vinegar and black pepper.

I feel a bit better now. Just the same me and that furry little consultant are going to have a talk!