Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garden Update Pictures

Let's have a little garden update. Please excuse all my weeds. Here are some grape and cherry tomatoes that I have gotten from the three hanging baskets of tomatoes that are on the porch.

Here are some more to come. All three of the baskets are just loaded with little tomatoes.
Here is the squash vines that seeded themselves in the old compost pile. They are growing and blooming like crazy but so far it is all male flowers.

Here is the best growing squash in the garden. This is a patty pan squash. The zucchini aren't doing as well but were planted later.
 This is a nice healthy row of turnip greens. I am beginning to think I won't plant greens next year; ugg, I dread washing all these leaves.

Here are a few more shots of tomatoes in the larger garden. I planted several cluster type tomatoes.
Here is a nice purple bean. Too bad the plant doesn't have leaves thanks to my bean leaf eater, whatever it was.  The leaves are growing back but slowly.
Here are the start of the jalapeno peppers. They always do well in the garden. Apparently they can grow anywhere.
Here are the bell peppers. I have not gotten any bell peppers from this garden for the last few years but have changed several things this year so have high hopes for these little starts.
The kale has gone to seed and here are the pods on one of the kale plants. I plan to collect them later for seed for next year.
This last picture is of the lovely flower on the pomegranate. This year is the first time it has ever flowered and it only has a couple flowers. They are quite pretty though.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Days Past

I wasn't going to do a post today until I got thinking about this. When I was a kid Memorial Day was always the day (besides Labor Day) when my mother got out our flag (we had a couple of large flags on poles  with eagles on the tops than attached to the side of the house) and put it out and we would all (except my father) get into the car with some kind of flowers (if the lilacs in the back yard weren't in bloom yet we would get something else, if we didn't have anything it didn't matter, we went anyway) and we went up to the cemetery to see the graves of my grandparents and my Aunt Helen and then there would be a wandering about the cemetery to see if my mother could find anyone else related to us or that she knew.
One year we went to Hartford Ct. to a cemetery there to see if my father could find his relatives. He only found one and another that was just a possible relative but I will always remember their names.
This is not something that my children have been exposed to.  We have no relatives buried close by and the flag hangs outside our house all the time since both my sons] joined the Army. Still I think it is a terrible shame that I have let this tradition die in our family.
Just another good thing gone. Sometimes I wonder about all the 'constants' we had in our life growing up from the same Christmas tree decorations, the same pies served for Thanksgiving to the same things we did for Memorial Day. These things we were proud of. What will OUR children remember?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finally a quail hatch!

There are nine of them so far but I still hear peeping in the incubator so maybe there will be more.  They are out in a little brooder inside the big brooder since I am sure the little bantams would think they are bugs and try to eat them.
Afraid I haven't done a whole lot that is self sufficient this week. We have changed to the summer work hours and I always have a hard time adjusting (I would so much rather have my mornings off). Plus it is just incredibly hot here lately. Yesterday it was 99 degrees, today our high was supposed to be 97 and tomorrow we are cooling down to 94. Not to mention that this is Georgia-- it's humid and the pollen is terrible. I am also still coughing and sneezing and once it gets started it is hard to stop.
Anyway, in the gardening news. Something is still trying to eat all the plants despite the Sevens dust. It just goes after the ones that I miss. It seems to not like the peas (which are dying in the heat) or the squash though the peppers, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers are fair game.
The plums on the plum tree ripened but it is not producing real well this year. I believe I will give it a good pruning this fall and get some compost put in around the base and maybe some fertilizer.
No amount of heat stops the ducks, quail and bantams from laying. I have more eggs than I can possibly use and have left the ducks a nest and fed a bunch of eggs to the dog as well.
This weekend will be a 3 day weekend and I am really hoping to get some more things done.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why I Think I Do This

We grew up bad. My father was an alcoholic and things were mostly just plain bad growing up but there was a time, just 5 years when things weren't too bad. We lived in the house in the photo although that picture is one of the earlier ones before my father added on, build a stone fireplace, made a larger porch and shingled the outside. This was my grandmother's house in New Hampshire and after she died we moved in. I was 4 at the time and memories of coming through the front door (I dropped my ceramic piggy bank and it broke) are the first memories of life that I have.
We had 5 acres here in my mother's home town. A few acres were clear and the rest were woods on a hill. It is so hard to know where to start with this....
I guess I'll start with the garden. It was about an acres worth of that field. Pickin' rocks was to become our-we children's- most hated chore. The garden was where an old river bed used to run (there is still a stream on the other side of the road) and the amount of rocks we got out of it each year was just amazing. Piles and piles of rocks down the side of the garden after we got done "pickin' rocks" (my father always found some relative of my mothers or someone he traded with to plow it each year). Our garden flourished. I don't remember a lot but remember the carrots were huge and hard to get out, the watermelon rind pickles and pickled beets my mother made and canned were wonderful and peas tasted so good. I also remember that there was always plenty of pumpkins for all the relatives and neighbors who wanted them on Halloween.
The garden was a major way we were self sufficient but it wasn't the only way. On that big hill by the house were many sugar maples. We all bundled up and went to help my father tap those trees each year. Later after the sap was collected he would boil it all down in the smoke house(there was no sugar house but the smoke house became the sugar house since we never smoked anything) in metal barrel cut in half. He spent night after night in that smoke house. We always had plenty of syrup and enough to give the neighbors. In winter instead of ice cream we had "sugar on snow". That was when my father heated up some syrup; we kids went out after a fresh deep snow and got a bowl and my father would drizzle warm syrup on top. I don't think any ice cream EVER tasted as good.
Wood, especially after my father built the fireplace, was another hated chore. Wood had to be brought in each day and piled by the fireplace. A lot of wood. There wasn't any wood box at our house. You piled it in a nice pile on the wall that the fireplace was on. When you were little the stack was over your head but as you got bigger it might be chest high and several feet wide. Four or 5 trip outside to the woodshed (after my father built the woodshed) for each of the three of us kids. However, bringing wood out of the "woods" might be funner because it often involved dragging it out with the truck or  in the winter dragging it out with the snowmobiles.
Wood and picking rocks weren't the only chores though. There were chickens, there were rabbits and there as the bull. Chickens weren't so bad, because my mother or father took care of them. I don't remember having to do them but the rabbits were another story. My father got rabbits because he thought he could eat or sell them but my mother refused to eat rabbit and my father could never seem to find too many people to sell them to. But they had to be fed and that turned out to be we kids job. We were given a bucket and had to fill it with grass (we often tried to fluff it up but my mother would step in the bucket and flatten it every time) 3 times to feed the rabbits. It was a hateful job and we were plenty glad when my father finally gave up on the rabbits. The bull was only a problem when it was little and it would get out of the fence. It wasn't a problem when my father was there because he would put it back in but one time it was just my brother and I there(I'm not sure why we were alone at the time) when my uncle (he lived at the top of the field on property my grandmother had given him)called and said the calf was out. It was my brothers job to get it back in and he did try but finally my cousin came out and got the calf back under the fence.
My father butchered the bull in the front yard. He hit it in the head with a "splittin' mall".  Then him and the neighbor butchered it on a tarp and brought the pieces into my mother. Later on I remember my father and my mother grinding up the hamburger with the manual cast iron grinder.
There are other little things like how the black walnuts were thrown up on any roof to dry so that they could be cracked out of their hard shells. Even to this day I remember how good they tasted-like a sweeter form of a walnut.
There was a big patch of rhubarb and I do mean a BIG well established patch, but my mother hardly ever used much of it because rhubarb pie was alright but not one of our favorites.
There was fishing. We did a lot of fishing. The stream was right across the street and there was trout in it but we hardly ever went there. My father knew lots of other spots to fish though and we often went. My father was not a big fan of fish with scales though and would throw those with scales back but we still kept plenty of fish.
Crawfish (crayfish as we always called them in NH) and frogs were good to fish for too. Both can be caught with a string, hook and a piece of red or white cloth. Frogs should be fished for early in the morning or late in the evening. Crawfish you can catch where large boulders come out on the sides of ponds at night. They come up on the boulders for the warmth.
I had a little friend who live down the road and when I went to her house we made string art with wood and nails we pounded in ourselves. We also carved soap with jack knives! Then the shavings were made into a ball and melted in the oven. (Now how dangerous was giving a 7 year old a knife to carve in soap with?--and I really don't remember the age we were I am saying 7; I hope that we weren't 5 or 6 but we could have been).
My cousin also kept bees in our field for several years and shared honey with us.
Later on as I grew up that same cousin raised all his own chickens, a pair of geese and two hogs each year. One year he also raised several turkeys but didn't like them much. He dabbled in gardening but  never seemed to get much from his garden but I remember whenever we visited him my mind seemed to take notes for when I might get a chance to do things myself.
So these are the good memories I have and they all deal with being self sufficient. Maybe that is why I am the way I am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Weekend Went SO FAST!

I could really use several days off, sigh.
Three bantam chicks hatched yesterday. Two have moved outside to the big brooder but this little one hatched out late this morning so he still has some drying off to do in the incubator.

Unfortunately none of the quail eggs have hatched. It is poossible that none of these first ones were fertile. Male quail tend to mature a few weeks later than females. Maybe the next batch of quail eggs will be the ones to hatch.
When I walked down to the garden yesterday I got a nasty surprise. Something had eaten all the leaves off of the beans. It hadn't actually eaten the beans themselves just all the leaves. It also got one pepper plant and one small tomato. So much for having a nice organic garden; mine got Sevens dusted. I do believe the beans will come back though. At least it didn't eat the peas which are doing real well and I hope to be able to harvest some eventually if our weather stays as nice as it has been.
The potatoes did not get canned today. I picked up some hay on the way home from taking Phil to work and cleaned out pens and put down fresh hay this morning instead. I do love it when everyone has a clean pen. The potatoes will just have to live until tomorrow.
Phil actually asked me yesterday when I picked him up if I had gotten any rest. Humm...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I am so good!

LOL, there are 3 more chickens in the refrigerator now. I could have just procrastinated and not done any since Phil is doing a side job this weekend and I had to take him to my brother's house (my brother lives in Dearing about a half hour away from us) this morning which meant I couldn't get started butchering early but I was good and got 3 of them done anyway! I'm quite pleased with myself on that score. There is just 8 of the big meaties left and I think there is 6 or 7 of the small ones.
I also have managed to get my sheets into the washing machine and get some mushrooms in the dehydrator. If my foot gets so I can stand on it again today, I might even get some of those potatoes canned (15 lbs) and I might get down to the garden. It did rain night before last but it didn't rain much. Still I was happy we got something.
There is a chick trying to hatch in the incubator. So goes the day so far.
Sorry I haven't posted much lately. I have been sick and not doing much except trying to get better.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What to Get a Self Sufficientist for Mother's Day

Phil has always gotten me something for Mother's Day and right from the start I told him to please not get me any of those dead flowers because after all, once they're cut they're dead. I'm also not much of a jewelery person. If I am going to be given a gift, I want something that I want and that is usually something useful. However, he does always get me the most perfect cards. I love how this one is made with the flowers up off the paper and the little gems in the center of the flowers (good ideas for making cards!).
And here is my gift this year. It is exactly what I wanted- and asked him for. I really needed a big cutting board but just couldn't seem to make myself spend the money for a piece of wood. The knives were an extra surprise and will definitely come in handy. I haven't had a new set of knives for about 22 years.

Phil actually saw me posting this and said you all would think he was cheap. I had to explain to him that some people actually understood where I was coming from. Not everything is all about money.

Now a little tribute to my mom. My mom was the greatest person I ever knew. She went through a lot in her life and didn't get a whole lot back in return. She has been gone almost 18 years now. She died of cancer two weeks before my daughters birth when she was just 51 years old. I miss her every day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Focaccia Bread and Grilled Chicken Focaccia Sandwiches

It was just another one of those thoughts. We love grilled sandwiches made with focaccia bread but I had never made the bread myself and the thought crossed my mind yesterday, "I wonder if I could make focaccia bread?"
I don't know why I even ask myself that when I know it is just a matter of looking it up and doing it. So here is the focaccia bread and it was quite simple to make as well though there might be a few things I would change next time. This makes 2 loaves.

5 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
2 tsp. garlic powder (one of the changes I would make next time is to use minced garlic. I just think it tastes better.)
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups warm water
a good pinch of black pepper

some olive oil (just to brush on top)
Parmesan cheese (enough for a light sprinkle on top)
mozzarella cheese (enough for a light sprinkling on top)

In a large bowl stir together well all ingredients for the bread group. When dough forms (use hands) turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl and place dough in it, turn to coat top. Place in a warm place with a towel over it and allow to rise 20 minutes.
Punch down.
Spread dough on a greased cookie sheet to about 1/2 inch thick. (Be careful to get it as even as possible. Thin spots will be hard to cut later.).

You then brush over the top of both with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes (this brings us to another thing I would change. The bottom of the bread was very brown and a bit hard. I believe I would drop the temperature down some next time and also make sure there was a pan of water under the bread).

Now for the sandwiches:

Allow your bread to cool, then cut it into 9 pieces. Cut each piece through the middle. You now have the top and bottom of the sandwiches. Set aside. Take our your lovely grill that your sister-in-law gave you. Ok, I took out mine anyway. Any grill of this sort will do. Take out the chicken breasts from the chicken you butchered last Sunday :) Sprinkle them with your dried rosemary and grill until done.

They smell so wonderful! Now cut them up into small cubes. Put just enough on a bottom piece of focaccia bread so that you can get a bit of chicken with each bite. On top of the chicken put a piece or two of your favorite cheese. I used one piece of swiss and one of provolone. On top of the cheese drizzle your favorite salad dressing. I used ranch on some and Ceasar on others. Now put them back on your grill and cook until the cheese melts and the sandwich sticks together.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Garden Pictures- The Trees

I took too many pictures this morning for one post so split them up into two. Here are some picture of some of the trees in the yard.  This first one is of a little fruit I found on the pomegranate tree. Its first one ever, partially eaten by something, but its first fruit nonetheless.

This cicada was also on the pomegranate tree. No they are not gone yet and they are still making their awful noise. 

This is an awful shot of the Chinese chestnut tree. It is hard to take a picture of a tree with other trees all behind it.

Here is a picture of one of the smaller fig trees. I have two small and one large (taller than the house) fig trees. They have grown quite a lot this year already.
Here is the little peach tree that I bought and planted this year.
I could not get a good picture of the new apple tree. It is quite large and had too many trees in the background. I also didn't take pictures today of the plum trees, hazelnuts, pecans, sour cherries or quince because some are just hard to photograph and some I have already show you all.

Garden Pictures-Herbs, Vegetables and Flowers

The thyme actually inspired me to take pictures today. I can't believe how well it is doing out in the raised bed! It is just about time to harvest some I think.
 Something is really liking the basil and oregano but doesn't care for the cilantro.

Here is one of the lemon balm "bushes". These are really huge this year. Still trying to figure out what to use them for. I am wondering if a strawberry lemon balm pie would be good?

Tomatoes in the hanging baskets on the front porch. I have to water them a lot.
Beans are doing well in the bigger garden and starting to get little beans on them.

 Buds are coming on the green bell pepper plants and the jalapenos are doing good but not quite as far along as the green peppers.

These are the pea flowers. I am not sure we will get any peas before it gets too hot for them. It is a real challenge to grow peas here. If you start them too early they just sit there and don't grow but if you don't start them early enough they don't produce anything before the vines die off in the the heat.
This is what I believe are some pumpkin vines (with a few potatoes among them) growing up by itself in the old compost pile. What I would like to do is make a raised bed on this spot next year.

We have several of these trees here. I have no idea what they are and just noticed today on this little one that the white flowers are lovely.
And last but not least, is this rose in the back yard. It is quite large, nearly as big as my hand and has just a light smell to it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I was wrong...

it wasn't the quail hatching first, it was the bantam chicks. I got 8 from this batch. I still hear peeping in the incubator so I don't think the quail are too far behind.

By the way, these are not food Mark :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today's Harvest 5/2

Kale, spinach and turnip greens. This will be the last of the spinach. I will pull it out and plant something else. I haven't decided what I will put in its' spots yet. Maybe more beans but if the ones I planted in the flower garden come up, I should have plenty of beans. Still thinking on it.

Here's the Meat

I have 4-5 people to feed so we have 2 bags of legs and thighs, a bag of wings, 2 bags of breast strips, a bag of backs(soups) and a bag of giblets. It will all rest in the frig another day before I freeze it.

In other news, I hear peeping coming from the incubator. I believe more quail are about to hatch! These hatching this time will be for meat though I may save a couple more females to use for breeders. The bantam chicks should be hatching in a couple days as well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Butchering Day

I bet they wouldn't have run to me this morning if they had known what was coming. I got 4 of them done anyway. Unfortunately I remembered to take pictures at the beginning but not through the rest of the butchering but you likely didn't need to see all that anyway, there are plenty of good videos on youtube that show how to do it.
I take my water bath canner out because it is the biggest pot I have and put it on a fire in the fire pit. I try to keep the water so that it is just at a boil.

I then take my little piece of baling rope that I made two loops in and slip one on one chickens foot, then over the clothes line and the the other on the second foot. I cut the throat, let it bleed out and die, the go dip it in the boiling water. If you have the temperature of the water just right the feathers will just slip right off the bird, if it is not hot enough you will have to pull, if it is too hot, it will make the skin rip.
Anyway, after plucking I gut the chicken saving the heart, liver and gizzard. Then I go ahead and cut up the chicken. I leave the skin on the legs, thighs, and wings but skin the breast. They are such nasty birds on their breasts from sitting on them all the time besides we usually eat the breast as chicken strips anyway. The 4 birds that I did completely filled my 16 qt. stock pot. It is in the frig now so the chicken can cool for a couple days. Sorry should have taken a picture of the meat but I am tired and am not getting up again.