Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Sunset of the Year

Happy New Year!

The Photo Journalist

Just me... taking a picture of myself on the last day of 2010 in the mirror of the cabin.  Adorned in winter attire, my dad's old wool coat that my mom accidentally shrunk in the dryer years ago.  She gave me a blue and red wool coat, she shrunk both of them in the same load.  I have worn them for years, and remember my Dad in Alaska wearing them when I was a little girl.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blustery Snowy Day

Country Kids

It's been snowing all day, we woke up this morning to a couple inches.  The kids are all having fun playing in the snow and being outside!  We have 3 cousins visiting from Wenatchee, so it's double the fun.

Jason and Jeremy the "Mountain Men"

Tessa practising with her new guitar she got for Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Summer say's Hi

Winter Garden

Happiness Over The Holidays

At my daughter Christina's having a Christmas time dinner, our first ever at her home.
I woke this morning long before light,and lay in bed reminiscing about the holidays and how much fun it's been with family and friends.  I'm lucky to have my husband, and children, our home, and all the menagerie that is Applegarth Farm.  We are all blessed to be healthy and happy, and feel warm and safe.

Jarin got up early this morning and put on the coffee, I heard the bell ring and knew I had to get up and get dressed, pull on the rubber boots, and walk over in the dark from the barn to the little house.  We're not on our normal routine with school out for the Christmas Break.  The kids all sleep in 2 or 3 hours later than we do, and stay up a couple hours later, they're on holiday hours.  So our mornings begin with starting the  fire, coffee and chatting about what we're doing that day, then I feed the chickens, rabbits, and cats.  Jarin always takes Sierra and Summer for their morning walk, then puts them in the pasture to eat their breakfast and  play for a couple hours. 

Over the holidays it's been warm here in the NW, the moisture is thick, and it has rained lightly for days.  They're predicting Snow for Wednesday and Thursday, we have cold air coming today, and they're forecasting snow in the foothills and lowlands.  The kids, especially Kaley want it to snow.  Over Thanksgiving the snow we had was really fun to sled and play in.  Plus today 3 cousins are coming to stay for a couple days,  it would be fun to have snow so they could all play together.  I'm hoping for it too!  I love for winter to be Winter, I say... Let It Snow!

With Christmas over, we're onward to 2011.  I have big plans for Applegarth Farm this year.  This spring will be exciting,  we are planning to get a couple Nigerian Dwarf goats, they will be does to milk, sometime I'm hoping in March or April.  We'll be getting their area ready over the next few months.  The new year will bring work on the nursery part of the farm.  I will be grafting apples, pears, plums, and cherries, January through March.  Some work in the garden will also begin around the end of January.  I have several new beds planned, and will be planting more espaliered fruit trees around the garden.   I am also planting several rows of fruit trees I grafted a couple years ago in the new upper meadow orchard.

Over the next few days and weeks we at Applegarth will be reflecting on what we've accomplished over the last year, and what will be priority and desire to work on this year.    I encourage you also to take the time to reflect and write out your dreams for the coming year.  If self sufficiency is important to you, take some positive steps like planning now for your garden, look at seed catalogs, and study books from the library about vegetables, fruits and berries. You will want to dig your beds, and amend them with aged manure first of all.  If  you are interested in bees, January is the time to order them, and get your hives ready before they arrive in April.  If you want fruit trees, plant them over the next few months, order them now.  I have bought mine through Raintree Nursery and Burnt Ridge Nursery, both are in Washington, and do mail order.  If you want Chickens, rabbits, or goats., they all provide self sufficiency for families with food, and compost for enriching your garden.  Begin to think about getting ready for them come Spring.    The thought of all the new life in Spring brings me happiness now in the darkest days of the year.  Onward to longer days and a bright shiny New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Applegarth's Future Farm Truck

On one side of the barn is a woodpile, and our future Applegarth Farm Truck.  We hope to have this 1946 Diamond T fully refinished and driving for special occasions, a dream still incubating for the time to complete someday.  On the left is one of our woodpiles, gathered last May to dry and cure over the summer, and ready to burn in the Fall.  When living in the country off grid, wood for heat and cooking becomes very important and is on the mind throughout the year.  Best to have a good Stihl chainsaw, a maul, and an ax.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice

A total eclipse of the moon (a Lunar Eclipse) Monday night will coincide with winter solstice. 
This means the moon will appear high in the sky and be visible throughout all of North and Central America, including Seattle — weather permitting.
Starting around 10:33 p.m. PST, the full moon, normally illuminated by the sun, will pass through the shadow,  created by Earth blocking the sun's light.
Some indirect sunlight still will manage to pierce through and give the moon a brown or maybe deep red color rather than the usual orange-yellow tinge, thanks to recent volcanic eruptions that have dumped tons of dust into the atmosphere.
More stars will appear in the sky as sunlight reflected from the moon fades.

This would be really cool to see, but the forecast for the Seattle area is for mostly cloudy skies, with showers.
Your best chance might be to watch your computer screen, not the sky.

A nice ritual for the winter solstice is to put  out bird food, squirrel, and rabbit food, for the little creatures to feast during the lean times they experience in winter.  If you buy a large bag of birdfeed like we do from our local feed store you can feed them for the next month.  With many enjoyable moments of birdwatching. 

Another nice ritual is to gather as a family and have a special meal, with a homemade dessert, and celebrate the shortest day of the year with a toast to the days turning lighter, and the hope of the coming year,

You could also begin plans for next years garden, by pulling out your seed catalogs, sitting by the fire with a hot cup of coffee, and writing out your design plans.  Maybe you'll order some new varieties of vegetable or flowers you've never tried growing before.  Or maybe you just want to splurge and buy yourself a new trowel and gloves.  Enjoy the Season!
Cheers to all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Handbuilt Cabin

This cabin started as a timber woodshed that J orginally built years before.  When it came time that his mom could no longer live alone, he wanted to bring her to live here.  Thus began the season of building the cabin, that once was a woodshed and from there created  a cozy home for his mom.  She lived and gardened here the last 3 years of her life, they were good years.  She passed away in 2000, but had those wonderful years to be in nature and be close to her son.

Pony Girl in her Pasture

Sierra this morning in her pasture. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Northwest Honey

Applegarth Farm is located at about 1200 ft in the Cascade foothills.  Most of our harvest is about 2 weeks later than in the valley.  This includes honey gathered from blackberry and wildflowers.  The early honey I collected in August is light and fruity, and so delicious, the best honey I've ever tasted.  The darker later honey is also delicious with more mineral notes to the honey.  They're both a Connoisseur's delight!  We gathered this honey, plus another gallon of the dark, and several more jars, along with a couple of trays of honeycomb.  Which we just like to nibble off of as a dessert, or yogurt topping.  We have 2 beehives, that I've had for 4 years, last April I replaced both of them with new bees.  We had a wonderful nector flow this last summer, that was extended due to mild conitions, the blackberry blossoms lasted a long time, and produced a large portion of the flow. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

"The Wanderer" A Great Pyrenees Story

Last night we stayed up late watching old movies.  Both dogs were inside with us, until just before bedtime J always takes them for a walk last thing in the evening.  Well he took them over to the little house and tied Sierra to the porch, with her long lead rope.  Meanwhile he went inside and got some stuff ready for a shower.  When he came back out to check on the dogs, it was 11pm and they were gone.
Somehow Sierra managed to untie herself, whether alone or with Summers help, we'll never know.  Sierra got the knot untied that connected her to the post, so now she's dragging a long rope through the woods, it's dark, and cold, and the wind is starting to really blow.

Sierra is our 15month old Great Pyrenees, and she can't seem to control her urge to split the second she has the least bit of freedom.  She has been trained on a daily basis by Jarin, and still the desire to explore outweighs the command "Come".    She'll just take off on a scent, into the woods and off she goes.  If my golden retriever "Summer" is anywhere in the vicinity, she will gladly join along for the adventure. 

3 weeks ago they escaped together into the woods, and we searched all evening for hours looking for them. Sierra finally came back panting and exhausted after 6 hours in the wilderness it was 9:30 at night ... she came alone.  We continued searching and calling for Summer, we didn't find her until the next morning at 10:30am.  She was a couple miles away, and was very lost.  That night she was gone was the worst, I cried all night with worry, and every time I heard the coyotes howling in the night, it made me cringe.  I know there are bear around here, mountain lions and coyotes right in our own backyard wilderness area.  From where we found Summer a couple miles away, you can head East toward the Cascade Range, and a vast mountain wilderness area.
Now go back to last night...Remember Sierra is on the porch and Summer is sitting nearby, it's late  She gets untied, dragging her 12 ft lead rope, it's 11pm and they're gone into the woods and beyond.   There is one thing I do know about Summer, I know she is grumpy after 10:30pm, she's usually tired and wants to be in bed.  So I was almost sure she'd be back soon.  The thoughts of what happened the last time still hovered in the back of  my mind.  I was just praying she'd return quickly and safely.  Much to my relief, about 20min later I walked over to the barn, and there was Summer sitting outside the barn door crying to come in.  Sierra was still not back yet, we would still be worried until we got  her safely home.  J went looking in the truck, calling for her, we were both concerned the rope could get snagged on roots, or deadfall and trap her in one spot. 

I am happy to report she finally showed up exhausted and elated about 12:30 am barking "I'm home...that was sure fun!!"  her rope was still attached  and it was covered in mud.

Never underestimate a Great Pyrenees and their desire to wander.  My husband has had 3 different dogs over the last 30 years.  They have to be fenced in, or kept on a lead when they're young.  As they get older and more mature they can be trusted a little more, until one day maybe 5 years old, they'll want to stay home more, but they will almost always want to patrol a larger area than your perceived boundaries.  Every quality Great Pyrenees Breeding Facility we have ever went to had every one of their dogs in a large kennel/run  or pasture, and contained at all times.

Sierra has a 1 acre pasture Jarin built for her.  The fence is strong to keep a Great Pyrenees inside, and safely gives room for her to run. She gets walks everyday, hangs out in the shop in her own huge playpen, and gets to go many fun places in the truck.   She also gets to spend  quality time with the family sitting by the fire inside and being with everyone in the evening.  Great Pyrenees are a beautiful breed, with a noble and free Spirit.  They are best partnered with someone who understands their nature, and has a large area for them to run and be free.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pruning and Preening

This is the place to be seen, the girls all head out here after breakfast and make themselves beautiful.
They sit and watch the roosters strut around and chase each other, trying to win their affection.

Young Americana Hen

I have raised Thelma from a 1 day old chick. 
She lays beautiful green eggs.

The Golden Girls

Summer and Honey waiting perfectly for some yummy people food. 
Nothing distracts them, this is way too serious.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing out the Dream

One of my favorite things to do when I have a quiet moment is to dream of what I really want in life, what I should be doing that is meaningful, not just for me, but for my family, my friends and the community where I live. This is new to me in recent years, I havn't always been in a position to even be able to think about what I wanted to do. My thoughts have primarily focused on raising my children and creating memories with them. Cooking, cleaning, organizing, and tending to every ones needs have been a huge job!
Four years ago, I really began to ask the question in my quiet hours, what am I here to do on this earth?  What do you want me to do... my creator?  I would ask Him who knew me before I was born, and created me, gave me my family, my Mom and Dad, my twin sister, and my brothers, and gave me the gift of 5 beautiful children, and finally a husband who could love us all.

Writing it out.. this is what Jewel  heard when I asked 4 years ago what it is I'm put here on earth to do? My answer was simple and clear, but also included some of my childhood dreams of painting and animals. You are called to teach others about what you're learning about self sufficient living through writing and photographing your journey. Get prepared to be out of debt, create your own food and power, work from home as much as possible, and teach all that you are learning, and have learned over the years.  The cashflow is to come through having a small fruit tree and edible nursery, and Jarin's new business building cabins and bungalows.   

5 years ago I started gardening more intensely, and studying like a student in school, getting as many books as I could. 4 years ago, I studied beekeeping, and got 2 honeybee hives, plus that was the year I bought fruit trees, put in an orchard and learned all I could about pruning and tending to my new orchard and hives. Jarin deer fenced the large vegetable garden, so we could really begin to produce our own food, it has grown by one large bed every year. 

 The next year I got rabbits, and more fruit trees, and Jarin continued to build fencing to enclose the whole ten acres in deer proof fencing.  We want to plant the land in fruit trees and edibles, without having them destroyed by the deer. The next year we got chickens, and Jarin began to build the coop, and we all worked on the chicken run to make it predator proof... this was a huge job.
We have learned as a family where our food comes from, how much work it is to create rich soil to grow your own food.  How to create fencing that lasts, and keeps deer out of the vegetables and fruit trees.  We have learned to greatly value the chickens, rabbits, and honeybees for their contribution to the farm's permaculture plan.  

In the next few years we hope to get off grid totally with the help of a windmill and solar power. These are dreams that will become a reality I know. Further down the road, I hope to hold self sufficieny classes and retreats here at Applegarth. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Decorating the Tree

Kaley helping decorate the tree, she is my best little helper with the holiday preparations and placing all the special ornaments in just the right spot.  We listened to Christmas music, and got into the holiday spirit.  We were busy all evening putting the final touches on.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rain and Flooding

Heading into town today crossing the Skykomish river, I stopped and took a picture of it ready to crest and go over the banks.  This is the river we always cross as we're headed into town. Usually you can see the beautiful snow covered Cascade Mountains in the background.  Not today, it has been raining nonstop and last night it poured all night.  It's still raining now, and  they are predicting flooding of both rivers in Snohomish County.  So glad we live up high on a hill at 1200ft.  The Snohomish and Snoqualmie Valleys are rich and fertile because of all the flooding.  It doesn't happen every year, but I have seen it many times flood the valley.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Artisan Bread

A loaf of Artisan bread I just pulled out of the oven, I made 2 loaves today the first one is already gone.  I have enough dough left to make bread for the next week. This is the easiest no knead bread recipe.   You can make fresh homemade bread everyday and fill your home with the smells of a bakery.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day

Friday, December 10, 2010

Meet Peppermint Our Angora Rabbit

Last year for Christmas we gave Tessa her own angora rabbit, and she named her Peppermint. She has been a wonderful addition to our rabbit herd, angora's really loves to be pampered and paid attention to.  They need to be thoroughly brushed at least once a week  they really love this ritual , and on nice days we let her out in the garden ...with constant supervision, so she can run and play while I'm working.  All the rabbits like to get out and stretch their legs, they run and leap in the air they're so happy.  One of my goals this Spring is to create a rabbit/chicken tractor, something so they can be safe and contained in, and yet free to eat grass and weeds, and dig in the dirt. I'm planning to rotate and share it with the chickens too.

Rabbits love to dig for roots, they like dandelion greens, and various other grasses and weeds.  We regularly pick good stuff for them to eat around the yard, and add it to to their diet.  I have had the opportunity to study rabbits in the wild, and what the like to eat.  Our mini rex's had some babies in the wild, and the ones not born in cages, but in the wild have survived.  We still have a wild one come every morning  to the rabbit hutches, and visits with them.

Peppermint got loose one time last year, we had a frantic search for her until dark.  In the morning thankfully I found her sitting under a tree with the wild rabbit right beside her.  I could tell she was glad to be found, and back home. This was a happy ending. 

We clip her angora fiber about every 3-4 months depending on the time of year.  So far I have not learned to spin it yet, so we've been gathering and saving her beautiful fur for the time when we will spin it, and knit hats, and scarves maybe even a sweater.   My daughter Tessa and I learned to knit over the holidays last year so we could make stuff with her fiber.  They say that you should be able to get enough fiber from one rabbit to knit a sweater every year.  Angora rabbits are a fun addition to a farm, we are planning to breed her this Spring, and will add one of her babies to our herd.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicken Coop

Home Grown Meat

I have a confession to make, I have never actually killed a chicken or  a rabbit or any animal for food.  I seriously don't know how I ever will, but know I probably will at some point... learn...maybe.  Even our brave and fearless captain Jarin also has no desire to do the deed (even growing up the son of a butcher).  So my son  who is 15 decided it was up to him if it was ever to get done, and so he does it.  He brings it to me skinned, and I cook it.   He tans the hides, and makes beautiful rabbit furs.  I have never asked him to do this, he has studied my Back to Basics book, read how, and just does it.  I had a serious talk with him about giving honor to the animal, being conscious in your heart, and thanking them for giving us life and sustenance.  I believe there should be a certain reverence for these animals that we have loved and nurtured.  It should always be done quickly, humanely, and never where another live animal can see it.

We have only just started doing our own home grown meat in the last few months.  Of the rabbits he has done 4 of them, bucks just at maturity, and a couple of   1 1/2 year old does.  He did them 2 at a time on different occasions, and never told me he was going to do it until after the fact.  He knew I would have a really hard time with it, as these were raised from birth at our farm.  The feed store that bought several litters over the summer, did not want  to take anymore because of the time of year and going into winter.  When you only have 4 rabbit cages, this naturally keeps your numbers in check.

In the early Fall he processed our first young rooster from our first batch of chicks that one of our sitting hens hatched out in the spring.  My mom couldn't believe we would eat our animals, she had seen them as young chicks, and knew how much they all meant to me.  I couldn't believe I was eating our animals either, but that's what you do when you truly want to be self sufficient if you want to eat  meat, something has to die, this is hard thing to do.

I think the first few animals you ever kill are the hardest, even though I didn't actually do it.  I cooked and ate them... I had never tasted rabbit before in my whole life, and boy let me tell you was it ever good!  I was sold, and now understood why the French and much of Europe adore cooked rabbit.  Jason got to choose how he wanted it cooked since he did the deed.  I  baked 2 at a time, and made rabbit pot pie, in my extra large double pie plate.  Vegetables, rabbit and a top crust taste unimaginably good!  So he wanted it done the same way the next time, we all did, everyone except our 13 year old daughter Tessa, she never could bring herself to eat any of it, and claimed she'd be a vegetarian for the night.  Fortunately she did get over it in time for the rooster, and baked chicken, and soup, this was something she was used to eating.  I am trying to teach my children where their food comes from, this is important to me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cutting down the Christmas Tree

Yesterday was the day we decided to cut down our Christmas tree.  Since we live in an old Christmas tree farm we just go out in the forest and  look for a great tree at the top, the trees are rather large so taking off the top portion is the right size for a large tree.  We had to fill in the gaps between some of the branches that were sparse by drilling holes and placing the branches to look fuller.  We are in frugal mode, so it  feels good to save the money on buying a tree.  We have gone to u cut lots, and spent $35-50 on a nice tree.   This year is different...neither one of us have a formal job, we are having to be very scrappy to survive the winter, and the holidays.   This will be a handmade Christmas like no other. 

We all pulled out the tupperware boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement, and began setting the memorabilia out.  Some things have been with us for a long long time, and are like old friends when you pull them out of the boxes.  We will be putting on the lights and decorating the tree tonight.  I have planned turkey noodle soup for dinner, with homemade noodles.  I also have the movie "The Santa Claus" pulled out to watch as a family.

Peanut Butter Cookies

At least once a week I make cookies,  if I get to vote usually I make peanut butter, Tessa likes oatmeal raisin, Kaley likes chocolate chip, Jason and Jarin like all of them.   so last night after we got the tree set up in the stand  I made another batch of  peanut butter cookies.  This is what was left after everyone ate their fill after supper.

Here's the best PB Cookie recipe I've been regularly making them for years.

Peanut Butter Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour ( I usually do half whole wheat)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar firmly packed
1 cup sugar ( I usually do half or 3/4)
1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter (any kind)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, ground in food processor to resemble bread crumbs. (sometimes if I don't have any peanuts I just add more peanut butter)

Oven 350 degrees. 
1.  Sift flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
2.  In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy.  Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary.  Beat in peanut butter, then egg's, one at a time, then vanilla.  Gently stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture.  Add ground peanuts stir gently until just incorporated.
3.  With 2 tablespoons dough at a time roll into large balls, placing them 2 inches apart on a parchment covered cookie sheet (If I don't have parchment, I just grease a cookie sheet), press dough with back of dinner fork dipped in cold water to make criss cross design.  Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges, 10-12 minutes.

yum, enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Barn

The first part of the Barn was built in 1976, when Jarin was 26 years old.  It's built using the beam and bolt style of building, this was before he began to specialize in timber framing.  Over the years he's added onto the back, sides and front of the barn.  There was never any finish put on, and we have just let it age naturally. I have dreams of  it beautifully finished with Sierra Penefin, maybe someday.   Much of the Barn was built from trees he cut and milled right on our property, along with recycled old growth beams. If you have lots of trees on your property for building, you are rich indeed. If you only have a few...don't cut them down! They are worth more for their beauty and the enjoyment of seeing them alive. We have an abundance of evergreen Douglas Fir trees on our ten acres, and the trees for buildings came from clearing the meadows. Our friend Matt has a Wood Mizer mill that he brings out to our home, it's worth every penny to have him come out.  When he leaves we have a wonderful pile of large timbers and lumber, and after curing and drying it will be perfect for building economically. 


The workshop where all the big tools are for building timber frames and various carpentry projects.  The desk and drawing table are for Jarin the artist/architect and his drawings of barns, cabins, bungalows, gazebo's and gates. Our Barn is very cozy upstairs in the living quarters, I just love it.  It feels like a squirrel nest in the evening with the glow of soft light, the smell of good food cooking, and the warmth of family.

In the beginning there was no running water or bathroom in the barn, we did have to 2 finished bathrooms a short walk over to the Cabin and Big House. The Big house is where we all took our outdoor showers, and did our laundry. I will write more about the Big House and Cabin in another post, along with pictures. 

Running water is so essential for a family!!! You really appreciate it after hauling water. We also built 2 loft bedrooms, they are warm with the heat that rises. The first few winters living here, we stayed close to the wood stove it was so cold.  The kids never got up until they heard the crackling of the fire that I would start before anything else in the morning. We still out of habit stay close to the woodstove, even though now the barn is much warmer. 
There is off to one side of the barn 3 rooms ( they house my office, and 2 of the childrens rooms). At the back of the barn is a shorter loft that is our book nook/ library. The other side of the barn is the kitchen, bathroom and pantry. About 4 years ago we put up plywood over the insulation, and built shelves, and room dividers. We also insulated the bottom of the barn, so cold air couldn't come through the cracks, this made a huge difference in our warmth factor.
The first thing we did was get the barn connected to it's own septic system, then installed plumbing, a bathroom and a rustic kitchen.

This is the gate leading into Applegarth Farm.  Jarin built it when we got together, and told me that this was the storybook gate, for the beginning of our life and story as a family.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Farm and Garden

Meditating in the garden...This time of year as everything has totally died back, I enjoy looking at pictures from the summer and fall.  And I begin to dream about my garden coming back to life in the spring. 

Notice "Sierra" our great pyrenees laying down looking out of her new pasture.  This is the entry gate that Jarin built in October for her new 1 acre pasture.  She is 1 year old purebred Great Pyrenees. and if let loose will wander off  and explore for miles around.  She will return, but the responsible owners of this breed will understand the need to be fenced or on lead, until they are mature enough to not want to wander, this may take 4 or 5 years.  They are wonderful livestock guardian dogs, when they are fenced with the animals.  This is my my husband Jarin's dog, and she goes everywhere with him.  Someday when we get milk goats they will share this pasture with her, along with another one that will be their paddock off the barn.

The chickens get to free range several times a week, they go all over the upper pasture, and stay in range of the chicken coop, I imagine so the hens can go back throughout the day to lay their eggs.  They love to eat all different types of grasses, weeds, and bugs.  The favorite place to scratch under is the rabbit hutch.  I guess thats where the best bugs are.  The trees surrounding our property are large douglas fir, hemlock alder, cedar, wild cherry, some grand fir, and noble fir.  Back when Jarin bought this land 30 years ago this was an old christmas tree farm.  The trees have grown over the years, and he has cleared the  upper and lower meadows.  Milling up the good logs for timbers to build with.  Or the alder and hemlock for firewood.  He doesn't build with hemlock ever, mostly douglas fir because it has more integrity. 

Henrietta gets the best mom award in our coop, she has raised 2 sets of babies last Spring and this Fall.  It is a delight to watch her and her chicks.  They obediantly follow her around, and she clucks to them to come for food.  She makes sure they are tucked in every night all cozy under her feathers.  As they get older she is still next to them teaching them always how to be a good chicken, and what to do.  They have to learn how to stay out of the way of Rodney the rooster, and the dominant hens.  They have to watch out for any chicken that has a higher rank than them.  It is interesting to watch the whole dynamic within the flock.  They all accept the baby chicks, and are curious to check them out when she first ventures out after 21 days of sitting on the eggs.  After raising chicks with a light, and letting the mom raise them.  I will vote for lettin the mom raise them everytime.  It's much easier that way.  They have a mom to take care of them, and don't seem like little orphans.

This photo was taken around the beginning of October, I had already taken the supers off, and have sugar syrup on for the fall medicated feeding.  I use fumigilan B to treat for nosema.  Any frames that came off the supers and had honey on them, I extracted.  This was a good year for honey, I got both light early  honey, and dark later honey.  Around here our honey is made mostly from blackberry, and wild flowers. 

Some of the frames didn't have the caps fully sealed over, so I set those out in front of the hives this time of year, and they totally clean them up of every drop of honey, and take the food in the deep hive bodies to be stored for winter.  You need to leave approximately 60 lbs of honey for the bees to last through the winter.  That's 2 deep hive bodies.  At the end of Fall I take off the top box with sugar syrup, and wrap the hive bodies, put a cover over the top, and a mouse guard on the entrance.  They will stay in the winter cluster usually  from around the third week of November until a beautiful sunny/mild day around the 3rd week of January.  They will come out then for cleansing flights to go to the bathroom, and stretch their bodies. 

The bees are the lifeblood in my garden, I love the hum of energy they bring to every fruit and flower.  They are busy little workers, and always interesting to watch.  I have spent many hours studying them, and what they are gathering and bringing into the hive.  I have had bees now for 4 years, and will have to spend some time, and write and share all of the hard lessons I've learned from trial and error.  To be a good beekeeper takes time and money.  There is a learning curve to be sure, queens, drones, pollen, propolis, swarming, starvation, adding supers, mites, and nosema.  You will want to read and study up on beekeeping before getting them.  Once you have them, you will never want to be without bees, and your own honey, and pollinators.

My favorite plant I grew this year was Amaranth or Love Lies Bleeding.  I bought heirloom seed for all my vegetables from Baker Creek Heirloom Catalog.  I have been very happy with all the seeds this year, well except for the tomatoes, which none ripened, but that wasn't the seed companies fault.  That was our cool summer, and not having the heat to ripen them. I have tried to save as many varieties of seed as I can this year.    The amaranth is still laid out drying, and I will be threshing it soon for amaranth grain, and will add it to breads I make. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wreath Making

The perch where I have coffee every morning with my husband come rain, shine or snow!

My Golden Retriever "Summer" also loves to perch here.

I gathered cedar and  douglas fir boughs this morning, and also found some
holly with berries in our woods too. 

I weave and crimp with wire to make a solid foundation, these are rustic wreaths, using what materials you have in your backyard.  My sister lives in Eastern WA and uses pine for her wreaths.  Tomorrow I will finish with bows and holly.  I need 3 for my doors, and will make a few to give as gifts to friends.  The idea is to keep it simple, make them yourself,  and use the materials you have on hand in your area.

"Rodney" the rooster

The chickens all tucked in tonight, safe and sound.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wood Stove Cooking

Every  morning I start a fire in our woodstove, we heat the home, cook meals, dry boots, shoes, socks, and towels near the heat.  We enjoy our morning tea and coffee around the fire, and have our conversation and activities indoors around our stove.  It is fussed over continuously, adding wood, adjusting the damper, and controls of air flow that are learned to perfection over years of daily use.  We know the types of wood that produce the most btu's, the longer and hotter burning woods are known, as well as the best wood (dry cedar) around here for starting fires.  We gather wood all throughout the year, and go through about 10 cords per year, between 2 fireplaces.  I should say my husband gathers wood all year, this is something he actually does when he wants to relax.   He enjoys nothing more than dressing warmly and going into our forest with his chainsaw and being a woodsman. 

The smells of cooking over fire are primitive, as is the smell of baking bread.  I feel warm and cozy with onions, carrots, celery and soup stock busily cooking away...just blissful!

Recipe for Turkey Stock and Soup
allow 4-8 hours for stock to simmer, and another 1 hour for soup to simmer.  Prep time is quick and easy for both procedures.  The following is how I go about it.

On the stove I have started the turkey stock cooking.  This one happens to be the carcass and bones from our 20 lb turkey we had for Thanksgiving, I have removed as much turkey meat and will save for sandwiches, 2 different soups I will be making, and  refrigerate the rest until needed. 

Next cover the bones and carcass with water, and put on woodstove.  I will add about 3 carrots, 3 celery, 1 small onion, or 1/2 a big one.  Sometimes I saute these in the fat from the turkey, that I save to use.  This should simmer on the wood stove for 4-8 hours, ideal for the top of the woodstove to conserve all that energy. I'll  add water if needed, usually around 3 cups or so.

Carrots, Onions and Celery are always the base vegetable I use.

I have the same procedure I do almost every week and have for years.  On Sunday or Monday night I will make 1 or 2 chickens, we will have a delicious dinner with mashed potatoes or rice, vegetables and salad.  I make this poultry stretch for many meals by always making a stock.  After cooking for hours, I will strain out the stock through a colander, and will press all the juices out.  Put the strained liquid stock back on the woodstove, add 3 more chopped carrots, 3 celery, and 1 onion.  Saute the vegetable in small amount of turkey fat , do this also on the woodstove, watch so none of the vegetable turn brown. 

Add the sauted vegetable to the  stock, notice you will have double the vegetable nutrion, in addition to the calcium from the bones, and the protein.  I cook in a separate pan the grains, lentil, buckwheat, rice, and barley about a 1/3-1/2 cup each, double the water.  You can do any kind of soup with the stock however, with  many combinations.  Depending on whats ripe in the garden I will ad zuccini, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, parsnips, salsify potatoes pumpkin.  you get the picture whatever you have, and want to combine.  I also usually  add a can of stewed tomomatoes, and a can of red kidney beans.
This soup is loved by all in our family, we add braggs and cayenne to taste just before we eat.   the younger kids also love chicken noodle with homemade noodles.

As a final bonus you get dog and cat food from the strained stock.

Remove all bones from the strained stock (this is messy and takes some time), you will then have a very healthy dog and cat food, that will be one of their favorites.   Usually I dry the bones under the woodstove, and save them for when I have enough, come spring I grind and spread bone meal in special areas of the garden.

Stretching the budget and creating health!  one of the ultimate goals of mine as a cook.