Monday, May 24, 2010

Rhubarb Salsa for Wendy

5-8 cups of chopped rhubarb
juice of one lemon, juice of one orange or if you want to keep it all local use your own apple cider vinegar, about a 1/2 a cup.
1 cup sweetener, I use a cup of honey
1/2 cup water
a couple of onions sliced julienne
a dash of hot pepper flakes

Throw it all into a pot and cook until it looks like sauce. Hot water bath for 20 minutes. Makes about 6 pints.

I also freeze rhubarb. I chop it up an put in freezer bags. I will save this for any manner of mixed fruit crisps.

If I have cranberries left in the freezer from the season before I will throw those in the sauce and add a little more vinegar to make a chutney.


Independence Days Challenge ...summer already?

Phew it is HOT! Tomorrow is supposed to be hotter, low 90's. We had rain here last Wednesday but we could really use more. It has been a very dry spring. The forest fire danger was high this past weekend, statewide. Time to begin rain dances....

But there is still plenty of bare soil in the garden that needs to be filled. Tis time to get the rest of the garden in for the year. I am trying to get out early in the morning to work in the garden and spend the afternoon either crafting, taking care of chores or preserving produce from the garden. It is really a balance this time of year to get all things I have to do and still fit in a few of the things I want to do. We have a tendency to get lost in the work and forget to take time for family and quiet time.

Plant: bush beans, dill, potatoes

Harvested: spinach, lettuce, scallions, oregano, comfrey, rhubarb, eggs

Preserved: 2 quarts of frozen spinach, 6 pints of rhubarb salsa, 1 pint dehydrated scallions

Eat the food: salads, eating last years rhubarb salsa on homemade tacos

Want not: we made homemade playdough, mended pants, scraps to the chickens, sheared sheep and skirted wool.

Waste not: mulched paths of garden with grass clippings from lawn, mowed lawn after letting the ladies to eat it down for us.

Support local food sytsems: Moo Milk, local beef

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shearing Day!

First Vivienne has her manicure.

Then she has her haircut.

Then she has a little green snack. Great day at the spa;)
Her fleece, oh gorgeous wool!

Her fleece weighs about 4 pounds. We skirt it; which is picking out as much veggie matter, dried bits of poop and second cuts. Second cuts are places where the shearer lifts the blade mid blow and creates a second cut. Mark has been shearing for about 3 years now and does not have many second cuts. But after doing it for a while it really helps to have cooperative sheep. If they are nervous around the shears they has twitch and wiggle causing the shearer to readjust.

Right now I have about 40 pounds of fleece to have processed. I am going to take the fleece from the Romney/Corriedales to a mill and have their fleece washed and carded. The rams fleece I will wash and card myself and use for felting and stuffing. The rams fleece has smelly boy sheep smell to it but is still useful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Daydream Believer

Yesterday, Evan and I drove to Farmington to visit Mark for Evan's Birthday. We had some extra time on our hands so we took some lovely back roads to our new home.

Our new home. In a quiet, country glade:)

A small orchard of a dozen mixed fruit trees. It will need a little rehabilitation but we should enjoy some fruit this fall.Woo-hoo! Also, there is lots of open space for our sheep to graze. Although I think we will have to fence in the garden to keep the wild beasties from eating it.

This is the field stone hearth where our wood stove will go. Because the house is passive solar and earth -bermed we should not need to use more than a cord or 2 a winter. Saving us money and work.

Evan in the kitchen. There is a lot of dark wood in the house. We will live with it for a little while until we decide if some of it should be painted or replaced. The house was built in the 1970's and some of the original features have that flavor to it. But being a child of 70's myself if feels like home;)

In the kitchen is a slate sink with a handpump to a dug well. There is also a drilled well with an electric pump. This house was originally built as an off-grid home. The current owner put in basic electric. Over the long run we would like to move off grid.
When we got home we got a call from the person who was going to rent our home. She has decided on another place. Which is okay, someone else will come along. Moving early was our plan B so we have time now to build a shelter for the sheep and move slowly into the home.
Also, speaking of plan B. Mark was able to sign a teaching contract for one more year. We are so grateful for this coming year. Next years school budget does not bode very well. So we will be grateful for this year and worry about next year when it comes. In the meantime, we have Time to get established, ponder our many alternatives to employer based income. We have time to dream.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

Our days are busy these days. There is plenty of sunshine and plenty of chores to catch up on. There has been a nice breeze which helps to keep the black flies at bay. But we could use some rain.

The garden is getting planted or covered in a thick mulch of barn gleanings ( a nice way to say poo) and mulch hay. On Thursday a student at the University comes to see if she would like to rent our home. If this works out we will be moving sooner than we hoped. So I may just leave much of the garden heavily mulched. We'll see...

Mark has started to shear the sheep. He started with the rams. Rama-lamba gave him a hard time. It was a true test of wills. Splog-Bob in true rasta romney fashion was easy going.We will have pictures this weekend of our ladies sans woolly coats.

I can't wait to see the girls naked. They were given to us last summer when they had a pretty good coat on. They are ten years old. When Mark started the shears up this past weekend on the rams these girls just began chatting away like ladies waiting at the hair dressers:)

So, the Independence Days Challenge is starting slowly this year. Mark and I have had conversations about what we could put up this year if we don't have a garden. We plan to u-pick strawberries, blueberries, apples. We are planting an early variety of potatoes and will buy a 50lb bag of storage spuds. If we get into the house early we can get some tomatoes, corn and winter squash in the ground. We'll know soon and be able to plan but for now it is all just rough sketching...

Plant: more peas, potatoes, broccoli, French Sorrel, Lettuce

Harvest: spinach, scallions, asparagus

Preserve: nothing but the chive blossom are almost ready....

Local Food: milk, local beef

Eat the Food: greens salads..just can't get enough:)

Waste Not: Took a big load of stuff to the thrift store, composting, recycling

Want not: Wee one's 4th birthday is tomorrow. We have a couple of handmade projects to finish up. I've been picking up canning jar lids every week to build up a bit of a supply. But I would like to try these reusable lids.

Well, gotta get to work. Have a good day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A long winter, a short spring....

Yes a short spring. One would think that after a period of hibernation, it should be time to be outside and chat with neighbors, go for long walks, play in the dirt.

But for residents of Maine, especially those who do not live on the coast, our springs are short. Really only a couple of weeks between frozen ground and the next season that overwhelms even the strong hearted. This does not leave much time to get the work done. This season is known as BLACK FLY SEASON!!!...are you trembling with fear yet?

Black fly season begins innocently enough. A few here and there. But then, one day, regardless of how nice and breezy and sunny the day, their population EXPLODES and you are inhaling black flies with every breath. These nasty critters love to fly around your head. They are attracted to you by the Co2 that you exhale. You could stop breathing but that would be counter productive.

I've lived in Maine for almost 20 years. I discovered the fearsome black fly when I moved north from Portland to Orono Maine. But my short stay in Orono did not prepare me for a true black fly season. I was told more than once that after a while one grows immune to the black fly. This does not mean that they stop biting you, only that the bites do not get as inflamed as when you are first exposed to the nasties.

There are many potions that keep these critters away from you briefly. But really there is only one garment to wear.

My Thanks to Tristan for modeling. You are a good sport!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Homesteading 101

We are writing to-do lists these days. There is work here at home, there is work we need to plan in the future. Priorities and dreams. While contemplating all our plans we can refine what we started in our current home for our new home.

When we first moved here the first improvement we made to the place was our clothes line. It can fit three loads of laundry. It receives good sunlight most of the day. The one refinement we will make on the next one to fill our holes with concrete before putting the posts in the ground so that the posts do not succumb to the whim of frost and thaw.

We also plan to build a woodshed that will keep our wood dry. Each fall we stack wood. I love this task. Evan and I go out each morning and stack. We collect any kindling left from the wood Mark has chopped. By December the wood is all stacked on top of pallets and covered in tarps or makeshift tarps constructed from feed bags. By January we are trying to keep the tarps on the wood or they are frozen to the ground. By spring we are chasing tarps freed by March winds. So a woodshed would be definite improvement.
Our compost bins were constructed from wooden pallets, chicken wire and barn boards from a barn we salvaged a few years ago. Some years I am very diligent about turning those piles every 21 days. I keep my piles of green and brown around and construct the pile as it should be. But the last year the piles have been more passively built. When we get to our new place I would like to construct our bins to look like log cabins; basically a box made from logs, that can built up and taken down while building or turning the piles.

We have capacity to collect 330 gallons of water from our roof. We put the 50 gallon whisky barrel up first and then found the 280 gallon industrial container. We had to put up new gutters. We use this water for watering our animals and garden in the summer. If we lose power we use this water for washing. In the new place we would like to increase our water collection efforts and connect some of them to soaker hoses in the garden. Our new place also has a hand pump in the kitchen that is connected to a hand dug well that we will use when ( it is not an "if" in Maine) we lose power. There is also a drilled well with an electic pump. I love redundancies:)

Mark made this cold frame for me before we moved here. It has served us well. It has been rebuilt and refined several times during it's life. When we move to the new place we would like to build a small greenhouse to help with seed starting, season extending and a spot for growing some of those veggies that like the heat.

Mark and Tristan built our barn a couple of years ago. We had a chicken coop a few years ago that was functional but a little scrappy looking and it fell prey to the elements easily. So when we built the barn I had the stipulation that I wanted it to be pretty. But our budget was a little tight so we decided to put T1-11 on as siding and, well, we started with 4 inch wide and that became unavailable, so there is some 8 inch on it too. It is post and beam construction and very sturdy but we are going to try something different with our next barn. We just haven't decided yet what that will be. We like the pole barn idea and our hayloft can store a fair amount of hay but not all the hay we need for the winter so we are going back the draft board for the next one.
Mark fenced in the pasture and this has worked really well. It has different sections that can be opened or closed depending on how the tall the grass is. In the spring we spread oats on top of the pasture grass we grew so that there is early grass for the wooly critters. The next place has more open spaces so we will be able to mostly grass feed our sheep in the summer.

Finally, we have a big double sided refrigerator with an ice maker. It came with the house when we bought it. We have been meaning to replace it with something more efficient. The new house has a built in cold room and a vintage fridge circa 1960's. We are thinking of getting rid of the fridge. We have a small chest freezer. We might get a small dorm fridge for things like milk and leftovers but we would learn how best to use the cold room. Also, when we put in our woodstove in our current home we stopped needing to use so much propane gas. We have a hot water heater that uses propane now. But the new place has an electric hot water heater. We would like to install an on -demand hot water system. We think that this will save us a ton of money.

Well, big plans...gotta go sharpen the pencil:)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Independence Days Challenge, Gotta get my but in gear

Yup. I am having a hard time getting motivated. I sit here today looking out at a garden I am not that inspired to work in. The weeds are creeping in and the black flies have made an early appearance. Ugh. But if the soil is not covered with good stuff it will be covered with alas...hi-ho-hi-ho it is over to the garden to hoe.

Evan and I drove out to Farmington this past weekend to meet up with some homeschoolers. We thought we would connect with some of the community ahead of time so that we can find some new friends and activities as we begin our homeschooling journey next fall. We also spent the night in our new home. There was plenty of daydreaming and planning. We should close on the house by the middle of June. On Saturday morning we woke and headed into town where we found that the farmer's market is not only of Friday mornings but Saturday mornings. Mark was in a 5k road race to benefit his school and Evan and I attended the yardsale that was also to help the school. It is beginning to feel like we can see the light at the end of this very long tunnel.

Which sorta means that the motivation to work on what is here at home is not there. I just have to keep in mind that all the work, here and there, gets us where we need to go. So in that spirit I must use the Independence Days challenge to keep me focused.

Planted: Sun flowers, cucumber, tomatoes, swiss chard

Harvested: spinach, lettuce, dandelion greens, dandelions, violet petals, parsnips

Preserved: 1 gallon Dandelion wine

Local Foods: local milk for making yogurt

Eat the food: mixed green salads. YAY!

Waste not: mending, hubby is hard at work on fixing one of our cars for inspection. He tries to do as much of the work as possible on our cars.

Want not: I have a list of things I am looking for this yard sale season. Among them winter clothes for the wee one. I found a pair of snow pants for a 1$ at the Goodwill. I found a Simplicity pattern for 10cents to make him PJ's. I found more canning jars at the yard sale.