Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sometimes others just tell the story better.

My friend writing about processing deer this year after the hunt
over at You Have To Cook it Right.

Also my buddy writing about the fall festival we through this year.
also at You Have To Cook It Right

And my lovely wife wrote a nice wrap up of what we have been up to as of late as well over at Lefse and Kimchee.

On The Folly of Going Lone Wolf.

Good afternoon readers. Over the last two days we have received something on the order of 18 inches of snow! Now those of you that are only familiar with Minnesota via the national news probably think this is the norm for us but in fact this is one of the top 10 snow storms in modern recorded history for our area. This storm ground our roads to a halt, buried many cars and even collapsed the roof of the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome. In short it has made a mess of things. But something interesting can be seen happening. Everywhere you look people are banding together to help each other. Twitter is awash with stories of folks plowing out neighbors and helping to dig out drives and sidewalks. Today while plowing and shoveling out the few bits that my wonderful neighbor could not reach with his giant farm sized snow blower it occurred to me that this is just the sort of response we may need in the face of all challenges. It doesn't mater if the challenge is Climate Change, Peak Oil or just the plain old economic hard times we seem to be currently experiencing the response will need to be the same, we have to help our neighbors. But the key to all of this is that we will need community, we will need the strengths that we all have to make it through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trying to get this started again.

This blog has been difficult for me to keep my nose to as of late. This fall has been a bit difficult We are still following the path of increasing self sufficiency and have made some real gains in that department this fall. There are far to many things to list out but a few of the things we have done are,

We attended a weekend workshop put on by the Women's Environmental Institute (WEI) and Growing Power. There were a number of great classes on things like Hoop house construction and greenhouse operations. We particularly took inspiration from the classes about composting and vermiculture. Since getting back to Caerwyn we have started a large compost heap and also an indoor worm compost bin.

We set up our first proper root cellar in an area under the kitchen. We dug up many of the amazing root vegetables we grew this year and stored them in wet sand inside coolers. Today I grabbed a hand full of potatoes for lunch and noted that the temp was 43F. Last time I picked up some potatoes and parsnips everything seemed to be doing well. I also hope the coolers will help keep the roots from any intrepid rodents which is good as we seem to have a plague of them this year. Probably shouldn't say plague, that might be next.

There was also a hunting trip that was quite successful this year. In fact our freezer is full of great meat.

So things are OK here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Well like a mushroom this blog burst forth from something near death.

Err. Or something.

We found the above mushroom growing out of the base of a dead ash tree in the yard earlier this week. I thought it looked like sulphur shelf. With a little help from friend Kathy Yerich via twitter I was able to verify that. I decide to harvest it yesterday and today set about cooking it up for lunch

The first thing we had to do was clean the mushroom as it had been growing quite close to the ground and had incorporated bits of dirt and grass as it grew. After a bit of cutting and trimming it started to look quite nice.

We decided to saute it in butter with some white and red onion and a couple of sprigs of thyme from the garden. It looks great and smells good too. It has a really meaty texture without a strong flavor of it's own. I can see how some people say it tastes like the white meat of chicken

Well time to eat the rest so wish us luck.

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!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ducks in the orchard!

No it is not a code phrase. we really have ducks in our orchard now. We had fenced in the orchard a while back but the orchard was in need of a gate, pond and electric wire.
Well first I built a gate for the orchard.

I know that the gate is a bit bent but it is kind of tricky to make an eight foot gate out of five foot or less lengths of board. But I am proud of how it turned out just the same.

Then I finished digging in the pond liner. It doesn't look like much but it is quite deep and contains 160 gallons of water. I plan to catch the run off from the pole barn and direct it into the pond to help keep the water fresh.

And last but not least the fence was strung and electrified and the ducks were rolled in. They stayed in their mobile home most of the first day but have now taken to wandering the yard as a herd.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wild part two.

Last Sunday we had the chance to head back down to the farm for the actual Where the Wild things are dinner at the farm. Jess and I got there early and helped wash and sort greens again. We sorted greens until the first farm tour took place. I snuck away to hear Ralph talk about his system for raising his cattle. I didn't get the chance to hear him talk about the cattle last year and realy wanted to hear it this year. Ralph took us around his pastures and explained the way he rotates his cattle through them to maximize his return from the land while at the same time minimizing his negative impact on it. One point he mentioned was that with cattle he locates the bale feeders in the areas of the field that are most in need of fertilization and the cows take care of it while feeding.

Ralph took the crowd out to meet the herd. It was interesting to see the cows up close. I was surprised to see how few flies his herd had. I didn't get the chance to talk to him about pest control. Maybe I will ask him next year.

After the tour I went back to help out with the greens again. I had Jess take a break and get some of the wonderful cheese and wine that were available. Soon it was time for the main event.
It was great to see Scott and his staff preparing the meat on the open wood fired grill. It was even better to eat it. There was so much on offer and it was great to see the nettles and greens we had worked so hard to gather in turned into wonderful dishes.

After dinner there was a few talks and the opportunity to meet tons of great people. We stayed until everyone left and helped to put away the benches and pick things up.

There were some nettles left over so we asked if we could take some home. We had a few recipes we wanted to try and didn't want to see the nettles go to waste. The first recipe was to make a nettle pasta. The first step in that recipe is to briefly boil the nettle tops and then shock them in ice water.

After that the moisture is wrung out of the nettles and they are blended in the food processor untill they make a smooth puree.

The next step will be to mix the paste into the pasta dough and then roll it out to sheets. In one of his shows Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall made a dish with these and a squirrel ragu. Since we didn't plan to make pasta that night the pure went into the freezer until the next time we want to make pasta.

The next recipe is also from River Cottage. It was for a nettle beer. The first step was to pour boiling water over the nettle tops and let them gradually cool for an hour.

Then the nettles were removed and some orange and lemon juices were added. Also the sugar was added and then the brew was left to cool to below 100F so that the yeast could be added.

Finally the whole thing was set aside to ferment someplace warm. It started to bubble almost immediately so I have high hopes for this batch.

Well that brings us up to last Sunday night. I will write tomorrow to bring you all up to speed on the new duck house

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Where the wild foods are Pt. 1

Today Jess and I joined Slow Food Minnesota for a day of foraging in preparation for the third annual Where the Wild Things are Spring Feast. We spent the first part of the day foraging around some of the pasture for chickweed, lambs quarters and nettles. After returning for weigh in at the farm house it was determined that we still needed more nettles so Ralph led us to a corner of his property that had fields of nettles and we set out to pick as many as we could. It was just Jess a guy named Kelly and myself. We were told we needed to just pick the very tops and that we needed 50 lbs of them. As we were picking and getting stung I had time to think. At around a gram apiece we were going to have to pick just a pit over twenty two thousand nettle tops. I am not sure if we got them all but we put in a heck of an effort.

When we got back the farm house everyone was already busy washing and sorting all the salad greens that we had gathered earlier in the day. The three nettle pickers took a second to weigh our haul from this trip and it came to just under twenty five pounds (eleven thousand nettle tops)! Then we started to settle in to the task of washing, drying and sorting the greens for the salad tomorrow. We spent the rest of the evening picking over salad greens and drinking the occasional beer and chatting about all things sustainable and slow. We had an excellent dinner and wrapped up the greens cleaning. While another crew cleaned the amazing pile of ramps they had managed to find.
Seriously that is one mondo pile of ramps!

We brought our the ducks and chickens the stems from the chickeweed we sorted and now if you will excuse me I am going to go pass out and dream of nettles.