Monday, November 26, 2012

As the Rooster Crows

It's still dark outside and not quite 5am, I can hear Rodney crowing in the distance and know he's crowing back and forth with the neighbor's rooster several acres away.  They go back and forth for a while and then stop, it's not a loud or obnoxious crow but is a country sound I like to hear in the morning.  I'm up early and already started the fire and made a cup of coffee, everyone will begin to wake up in another hour or so and our day will begin. It's interesting how as the cold and dark of winter begin again this time of year I slow down and have a desire to write.  I've been keeping journals and writing off and on since my early 20's, most of the journals I still have and sometimes I'll pick them up to read about all those years ago.  Through some of the tough times in my life when I wrote out my inner feelings I did go back and rip out pages and burnt them not wanting anyone (namely my children) to read of my hard times. 

Anytime you write a journal there is a good chance someone may read it and a blog even more so, people from around the world have the opportunity to find it and read what you've written.  I haven't been good about writing here lately and for that I do apologize,  if you are still following along after my long absences and technology fasts... thank you for still hanging in there with me.  When you write a blog you secretly hope someone will read it, and that you have something  interesting to say.  On this blog, especially in the beginning I'd agonize over my writing, it would take me so long to write a post and proofread it, then I'd hit the publish button with a little wince and hope I didn't have too many errors.  There have also been posts I've deleted, then regretted, and there have been times where I've added or taken something out months later, thinking I said too much, or didn't want to show pictures or talk too much about my children because I wanted the focus to be a farm and garden blog.

Then I'd think I'm sharing too much I don't know if it's good to show the world where I live and what I think, I  didn't even share my blog with friends for a long time because I kind of like being private and can be a real hermit at times.  Once I had someone mention my pictures were too dark and wondered why, and people would want to come visit and I worried it wasn't all pulled together perhaps like I made it look here.  The garden had weeds, I didn't have homemade bread made to serve them, the house wasn't finished or clean enough, and on and on I could go.  I've decided to just keep going forward here on this blog, sharing from my heart what I'm learning and doing. 

Now that I'm done working at the nursery where I worked for two years Spring through Fall I'm going to focus my energies on building my own business.  Work took me away from home 2 days per week, which isn't alot, but with all I'm doing at home along with raising children, it affected me and my desire to begin my own business making money from home.  The last time I made soap was right before I started working there, before I began there I was really focused on writing and had written out some big goals for myself and the business I wanted to start.  Now with the end of this nursery season I let my manager know I wouldn't be coming back next year, I knew when I started there that I was suppose to serve her and work there for two years, my family all knew that was part of the plan.  I'm so thankful for that job though as we needed the money and that's how I was able to buy the goats, rabbits, and get some wonderful new garden plants.  I also learned many things about landscape design and met some great new people.

Plans are now in the works to begin again, one of the first things I'll be doing is making goat's milk soap and lotion for Christmas gifts and practise batches, then I want to continue to make it and get setup to sell online through etsy.  I'll also be focusing on Applegarth Farm as a permaculture center for learning.  That means my home, farm, and garden will be open this next summer to come visit, perhaps some classes and I'll have baby goats, goldens, rabbits and edible plants for sale come June.  I have the excitement and energy in me again to keep going forward with my dream.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Goat Herd and Fall Breeding

Earlier this Fall was the start of our breeding schedule, Jersey was the first up since she never did get pregnant last year and I wanted her to have a chance to be the first to kid next Spring.   All of the other goats were curious and of course our handsome buck Cowboy was too, he has really grown and matured over the last year into a nice buck and we all love his great personality.  Jersey's due date should be around March 15th, Joon the first of April, Zolena the middle of April, and Snowdrop the first of May.  I timed it so they were all about 2 weeks apart, then each one can have the use of the birthing suite and the nursery paddock for a couple of weeks. 
"Poppy Patch Ride Um Cowboy" is our buck's official pedigreed name, his Dam is Poppy Patch Dutchess, a  winning show goat, his sire is Algedi Farm Honeymoon Bay, plus he has  Ponders End, Rosasharn, and Twin Creeks in his bloodline.  Excellent udders are in his lines, I'm hoping he'll produce some fine offspring this coming season. 
Jersey and Cowboy flirting through the fence, this picture was taken in early September when she first went into heat.  Most goats are seasonal breeders and begin going into heat around the first of September and every 3 weeks they'll come into heat  until they're bred, the heat cycles will last through February and even early March if they don't get bred.   I wanted to wait until the middle of October to breed Jersey so she wouldn't be giving birth in February, mid March was the earliest I wanted to go for weather reasons.  Our buck is a Nigerian Dwarf, and I'm using him to breed all the does to, both Snowdrop and Joon are Nigerian Dwarf, Jersey is a Nubian, and Zolena is a Lamancha.  This means I will have first generation miniature Nubian and Lamancha's.  I don't know that much about the miniatures other than some cute one's I've seen on Craigslist and some websites of Farms that specialize in them. I'm still fairly new to goats so this will be an exciting Spring to see the new goat kids. More than anything I'm using what I have, if I had a Nubian buck I'd use him for Jersey, and a Lamancha buck for Zolena, it's simply not practical to have 3 bucks for my situation.  I really like having 4 does and 1 buck, that is a nice ratio for me, and if I can get all 4 does in milk over the Summer, Fall, and early Winter I will be thrilled and have plenty of milk to make cheese.

The courting began with an audience of curious does. 

Joon, our cute little Nigerian doe was the first goat we brought home, I'm still milking her everday and have since she weaned her twins in the middle of July.  Joon loves being a milk goat and will even let Kaley milk her.   I have grown attached to this charming goat and her sweet curious personality.  She was bred to Cowboy the first of November for kids due the first of April.  Come Spring this farm will be hoppin with baby goats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Preserving the Harvest

This was a great year for fruit in the Pacific Northwest, we had beautiful weather for almost 3 months from the middle of July through the middle of October, there was sunshine almost everyday.  We all walked around eating from the fruit trees in our orchard and the berry bushes in the garden for months.  The 4 Italian Plums were just loaded with delicious fruit, we ate them fresh, kept the dehydrator going nonstop, gave some to neighbors, made, jam, preserves, plum brandy, plum butter, and froze a couple gallons for pie making later.  I love having the problem of too much fruit, then you can have fun with all the different ways to preserve it.  Every time my husband went to town I was asking him to buy another case of jars and low sugar pectin.

Many days were spent right here over the stove creating our winter preserves.

Italian Plums are sweet and tart and when preserved they turn a beautiful dark, ruby red, I made 65 pints of plum preserves, and a half dozen quarts of plums in a light syrup, plus I made a half dozen pints of plum juice.  The preserves are delicious on bread, yogurt, with fresh chevre' or straight out of the jar, I made them all with a low sugar pectin.  

Our Honeycrisp apple tree took off this year, we planted it 5 years ago and this year got about 170 of the best apples we have ever eaten.  Last year it produced 7 apples.  What do I attribute the difference to?  Well, besides maturing for another year, in mid March we applied a thick layer of compost around most of the fruit trees, I think feeding the soil is the key to helping fruit trees be disease resistant, this year I am going to spread compost on all the trees.  I don't can apples, we mostly eat them fresh and cut them up to put on oatmeal and hot cereals.
I have a pantry in the corner of my kitchen, plus I now have a new pantry off our kitchen that is my cold room, I keep preserves, apples, pumpkin's, squashes, nuts, and I have storage for bigger kitchen items.  It's still a work in progress but I have a vision to fill all my shelves with home made canned soups, more pickled goods, I'm working on pickled beets and carrots this weekend, and I still have a couple more boxes of pears to set out at room temperature to ripen and can.   I had most of the pears given to me from my manager where I work, she has a 50 year old pear tree in her back yard and I've had almost as many pears to process as plums, these were our two big harvests to preserve this year.  Over the Summer and early Fall I also made rhubarb jam, raspberry, gooseberry, red current, crabapple, mirabella plum, and another unknown kind of plum.  Preserves are a wonderful homemade gift as well as to simply enjoy through the long winter ahead. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fall Garden in Review

Looking out towards the garden from the covered deck as you walk up to our front door.

The garden is rapidly winding down for the year with several light frosts under our belt and temps in the mid 30's to low 50's.  The rains have begun in earnest and the leaves seem to melt off the plants and trees in this weather, luckily we have plenty of evergreens for late Fall and Winter color.  With much of the harvest canned, frozen, dried, or in cold storage I now have more time to sit by the fire and share what's been going on around here.
Josie was napping under a Bloodgood Japanese Maple, I called her name and she looked up, my goldens are constant companions while I'm gardening, they love to oversee it all and help dig if I let them.

Most of these pictures were taken  in early to mid October when the garden still had some color. 
One of the central paths in the vegetable garden.

Red Chidori Kale, delicious lightly steamed with a little butter and vinegar. 
One of kale's virtues is that you can harvest it from Spring through Fall and into the Winter. 


Artichokes that were successfully grown from seed produced their first year.  This is a perennial crop that will have permanent spot in my garden.  We're still eating plenty out of the garden even this late in the year, there is kale, swiss chard, small broccoli florets, sorrel, carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, celeriac, and greens.    Many meals have everything grown or raised right here, with the addition of our eggs, chicken, and dairy products.

Swiss Chard loves our climate and the leaves really liven up a salad

I'm learning to cook with turnips and like the small ones fresh in salads, the larger ones cooked like mash potatoes, or baked in a root vegetable casserole, plus I'll add them in small amounts to soups.

Every year I have a few favorite plants and flowers, this year it was all of my patio plants that I got for Mother's Day from my husband and children.  They bought plants for me at a local hobby gardener's sale, he has one a few times per year and specializes in annuals.  I tried some fun new plants like the Angel Trumpet Flower, Albutilon, and the Shrimp plant, along with geraniums and petunia's in color's that I had never grown before. Most of the one's I can over winter are inside all toasty waiting to go back outside next year when it warms up again.

Everyday over the Spring, Summer, and early Fall I had so much enjoyment from my garden, with music softly piped outside while I worked away, I thought this is heaven on earth.  My favorite music early in the morning are the bird songs, their singing is delightful with the robins being especially nice.  Hummingbirds live in the Douglas fir trees surrounding our property and they love to race from flower to flower and then they'll sit quietly on the fence and look about.  The hum of life comes from the birds and bees, the flowers that feed our soul, and the fruits and vegetables that feed our bodies, you can feel the pulse when you enter.  The work of the garden pays us back in so many wonderful ways throughout the year. 

Angel Trumpet Flowers
Magnificent, I loved this as a patio plant!

A type of "Albutillon"

Amaranth "Love Lies Bleeding" is a favorite of mine.

During the summer I gathered peppermint and dried the leaves for tea to drink through the year.  I also dried plenty of thyme, sage and oregano, the herbs in my garden are at their peak the end of July so I gathered the leaves on a dry morning at the height of summer.  They taste wonderful in soups, stews, spaghetti and for cooking through the winter.  I dry them in full leaf and then grind them in a mortise and pestle just before adding to soups and salads.  The flavor is so fresh and takes me back to the mornings I picked them.  There are still plenty of fresh herbs going strong in the garden but the leaves gathered at the height of summer have the best flavor.

This year with our fence complete and no deer getting inside, I can now grow roses.  Over the summer I ordered the David Austin catalog and have been dreaming of a garden filled with roses ever since.    Tamora was a rose I bought several years ago, it has a delicious old rose scent.   If you aren't familiar with David Austin roses look him up online and order his Rose Catalog you will see what I'm talking about.  He's bred the best of the old roses with the new for repeat flowering, disease resistance, and fragrance.    You can also classify many of them as edibles because of their rose hips and petals that you can make jam with.

David Austin Rose "Tamora"

I'm in Love

My little "Romeo" 
Roman David born November 3rd 
8lbs. 2oz.
I fell head over heels in love with my new Grandson from the minute he was born.  The strong maternal feelings were so overwhelming that I just wanted to bring him home to love and cuddle.  Of course my daughter wanted to bring him home to her house too... imagine that.  I told her they would just have to move in with us so I could see him everyday.  It wasn't realistic but that's how I felt, I'm thankful they only live about 30 minutes away so I can see him often. 
The birth went well, my daughter was amazing, and her fiance' Michael was a shining star. I have a whole new appreciation for him as I watched him care for her while she was in labor for 20+ hours.  Both his mother, sister, and I were the support team right along with him.  I was so proud of my daughter Christina and glad I could be with her through the long night at the hospital while she was in labor.  Little Roman came into the world healthy as can be and has a full head of dark hair, he was beautiful even as a newborn.  You can see in the picture above at a couple weeks old how adorable he is!  When I hear grandparents gush about their grandchildren, now I understand, I wasn't prepared for the love that wells up inside us for grandchildren, but it surely does!