Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 Fall Homesteading Recap

I'm hoping I do something like this every fall after I've brought in and stored the last of the produce. I think it will help in subsequent years to look back on it. If you are curious how things went this year, here you go (I'll try to put links to mentioned recipes and canning recipes at the bottom):

So here is what we had this year:
 34 cups of frozen zucchini
12 pints of applesauce
~7 quarts canned tomato sauce
~16 quarts canned crushed tomatoes
2 pints of grape jelly
22 chickens in the freezer
~10lb potatoes
6 good sized spaghetti squash and one small
5 pumpkins

Applesauce and broth

Chicken, necks and hearts, zucchini... There's no room for a cow in here.
 And then we have laying hens and cows now. We have rhubarb and asparagus planted and doing well. Our herbs are doing well - chives, mint, lavender, rosemary, oregano. We'll also be getting some beef bones and fat from our friends cow to make bone broth and tallow.

As you can tell, unfortunately, many of the things I was hoping to grow never made it into the garden, or didn't make it once they were in the garden. That includes broccoli, cabbage (which was awesome last year), cauliflower and brussels sprouts that were destroyed by Basil (our cat). And a few other things.

So here are my quick summaries.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Traditions and Heirlooms

This morning we are acting like french people.

Okay, not exactly. I'm far removed from the french culture but I took French in high school and one of my favorite memories is dipping crusty bread from the day before in hot chocolate! Genius!

I'm enjoying sitting with my boys at the first table Joel and I purchased together and seeing a few new, fun, potential heirlooms around the kitchen. I found a couple butter paddles and a bread warmer at our local consignment shop. I can imagine teaching my kids to make butter and bread and using those often.

The bread warmer says "Bread, the symbol of Friendship and Hospitality"

This started me thinking more about traditions, heirlooms, the messages those things relate, and the cultures that started them.

Here, take a stroll through my spaghetti brain with me:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Progress and a cow on the loose.

First, that picture up there was my view this morning and was my pleasure to witness. Two brothers, friends, having fun singing and playing together. Isaac adores Noah and loves to get attention from him. And I think Noah likes being the big brother too.

About the blog title: our sweet buttercup got out of the electric netting on Friday morning. That was probably because it was off...

We woke up as normal, Norway was bellowing, the roosters were making a ruckus, and then I hear Joel from the living room "Buttercup's out!" What? Seriously?

I threw on presentable clothes and rushed out the door to meet my husband who was already standing next to buttercup with some tasty weeds. Since she was so calm, one of us suggested that Joel go get some hay to entice her into the fence again. That silly cow followed and hopped behind him like an excited puppy dog. It was quite the sight. Seriously. A waist high mini-cow (still probably 500-600 lbs) following Joel right into the fence. 

Joel is convinced that she wouldn't have tried it if the fence was on, so I'm not too worried. She really does hate the electric fence. But this led to tightening up the perimeter fence, just in case. We temporarily closed off the woods with cattle panel from tractor supply store and added some gates. Joel and my dad did more clearing in the woods and prepared some areas for post hole digging. Joel and I got a little yard work done and some inside work done too. It was productive, and I'm excited that we are closer to having everything set up for the winter.

Speaking of getting ready for winter:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Welcome to Brown Croft Acre

Well, you aren't really here, but I'm introducing our "farm" name! Welcome!

They are cute, and they are welcoming you.! - photo by my awesome husband
It took us a long time to come up with a name because nothing quite fit. I really like names that have to do with location, or type of farming, or other special interests... but we really don't have a set in stone plan for our homesteading endeavors, so things will change.

Brown Cow Family Farm was high on the list of likes, but we didn't really want to have a name that has a bias for the cow part of our homesteading.

Norway doesn't mind if we are biased toward him.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How far do we want to go with sustainability?

So how far do we want to go with sustainability?

I want to be able to do it all from scratch. ALL of it. Or at least, as much as can be made practical in price and time.

Chicken stock with one of our chickens

Like "meat" chickens. I don't want to have to buy the chicks each year because they are special hybrids. Ideally, I'd like to have my laying flock have a few broody hens that will hatch some chicks each year that we watch grow up with good mommas and then gratefully use them for eating when they get big enough. They'll take longer than Cornish X or Red Rangers/Red Broilers/Freedom Rangers, but I get to watch the whole process and see it happen on it's own. Minimal involvement.

New chickens just starting to lay eggs

I'd also like to culture my own mesophilic, thermophilic and fresh starters for cheesemaking. Maybe even make vegetable rennet out of nettles. So we'll have milk from our grass fed cow, rennet, and a sustainable culture that I don't need to buy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Honey Sweetened Grape Jelly with apples for pectin

I just finished grape jelly and it was a success! Now I'm waiting for the canner to cool down so that I can dump it out and return it to a friend. It is the coolest canner ever. Joel agrees that we should find one because it just made my canning days a million times easier.

Part of the difficulty for me in canning is finding a recipe that fits our goals and that I can stick with. I didn't want to learn a sugar jelly with pectin, if I wanted to use apples from the yard as pectin, and honey from our future bee hive. So if I can get a good honey sweetened jelly figured out, I'd save myself a headache in the future when I'd have to experiment with a  new recipe and possibly not like it as much as a previous one.

Same with tomato canning, applesauce canning, and baked goods. I like to fill my recipe book with recipes that utilize what we can grow or harvest, or source in bulk.

My mom gave me a great recipe that she always used that uses one apple to help with pectin. Since it used sugar, and I wanted to substitute honey for it, I looked up other grape jelly recipes that use honey and apples, the USDA recommendations for jelly without pectin (because they have changed since the recipe book was published), and read up on pectin a bit (this is a great article on it).

So I can tell you, I didn't really meet the USDA recommendations. Please don't use this recipe and think I'm an expert. I told you last night, this was my first jelly attempt.

I strayed on the sugar. They say not to replace all the sugar with honey because it could cause problems with gelling, but I used honey 100% and just added a few more apples to up the pectin. But it also says to use "tested recipes" when replacing sugar with honey - so I tested it... I did follow the recommendation to waterbath it for 5 minutes.

So here it is.

Honey Sweetened Grape Jelly without added pectin



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