Homestead Happenings Vol. 13

The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.                            ~Abraham Lincoln

 

June 22, 2018

Outside my window

If I had to sum up the weather over the last two weeks it’s like this: wake up to hot and humid, go through the day talking about how hot it is, jump in the pool, repeat, take a cold shower before bed, go to bed in the hot and humid. If that’s not the scenario then it’s raining which honestly I’d prefer. We haven’t had to water gardens in all month! So really what’s outside my window are children laughing and splashing in our above ground pool (total God send). Also, I see the occasional rogue sheep because they don’t respect their fences and end up sauntering up towards the house.

On Pasture

This week our kune kune sow, Princess Leia, welcomed a litter of 8 piglets! They are absolutely adorable. There’s one for each of our kids! Or so they said. We will most likely sell a few and keep the rest. We love this smaller, docile breed of pig. Even our boar, Chewie, is like a big stuffed animal. We could have named him “Eyeore” he’s that chill. The rest of the farm is doing well just grazing the pasture and enjoying their shady spots. The layers hang out under their mobile chicken coops, the sheep have a three sided mobile house, the pullets roost in the pine trees, the pigs have new huts (his and hers), and the cows find shade under trees. Mike is forever planning fence paddocks, implementing paddocks, reevaluating paddocks. I guess that’s the nature of rotational grazing. Combining animal needs with pasture availability is not set in stone, so you have to roll with it.

In the Garden

It’s jamming that’s for sure…jamming with produce and weeds. Last week Mike went to the city for free mulch and we spread a few loads on various beds. That should help suppress the weeds a bit and hold in moisture. It looks so much better and also builds up organic matter in the soil as it breaks down.

I need to transplant some corn and beans. I know I should have direct sown them but the competition with the weeds is unbearable so I’d rather give the seedlings a fighting chance. We have a bumper crop of cucumbers and zucchini is producing. The kale is still hanging in there. All in all, major attention is in order in most spaces, but as I said before…TOO.HOT.

In the Kitchen

I don’t give near enough credit to how busy we’ve been and that plays a part in why the garden is semi neglected. We brought home from the butcher over 200 pounds of fresh pork that WE chose to turn into end products. I’m now the grower and producer of over 100 pounds of various bulk and link sausage. We are the proud makers of 8 slabs of bacon suspended from the ceiling in our dining room (want to join us for dinner?). I can’t say for sure this experiment will work. In which case Mike will kill me and never trust me again. But supposedly it’s the way bacon has been made since the dawn of ages. You just never know. For 5 days we cured the pork bellies with a sugar salt scrub in the refrigerator. EVERY day we had to lay out the bellies and reapply the scrub. This draws out much of the moisture from the meat. Now we’re in the next stage of the air-curing, hence the hanging of the slabs in the coolest part of our house. Time will tell.

We also received back from the butcher another 300 pounds of pork that we had to make room for in our freezers which will be for customers. And we had 50 broiler chickens processed. Needless to say, our meat fast is over. As far as vegetable preservation goes, I have a thing where I don’t like to look at produce on the counter for more than a day or two. It haunts me. So we are turning all the cucumbers into different kinds of pickles. In years past we’ve never been a fan of my lacto fermented pickles. That’s the easiest preservation method but it lends a mushy end result. They’re okay, just not a crisp, sour dill pickle like everybody wants. So this year I’m still doing a lacto fermented pickle but I added vinegar for flavor and it’s done in a crock or jar. Again, we’ll see. Just for fun, because I’m nice, I made a refrigerator pickle which is cucumbers in a sweet vinegar brine that can be eaten off of in the fridge for a month or so. I have a feeling I haven’t seen the half of the cukes so I’ll probably end up canning some as well.

Homeschool of Life

Our summer days have a rhythm to them.  The kids  wake up slowly with a cartoon, do morning chores, complete math, enjoy TONS of reading books or reading on the epic app, then get loads of free time exploring personal interests. For Hayden and Luke and the twins that may be swimming, building legos or playing cards. For Maria it’s a lot of cooking, perusing Pinterest for recipes, making iMovies with her footage from “vlogging” (that’s video logging), or making duct tape creations. Lea and the others have been mastering the American Sign Language alphabet with vigor. Now throw in a few hours for more cleaning, eating, and sibling squabbles and the day is done.  We are regulars at our libraries and have been going to classes they offer. Hayden participated in a soccer clinic.  Anthony and Lea both had a turn at Dad Camp.  Next week my oldest babies will be at camp for the week!

What we are learning

Sometimes on the homestead I feel like every single thing we do, we first need to research how to do it. That’s what it’s been like lately. Curing bacon, making pickles, when to harvest garlic, how to keep flies off the animals, how to price our farm products- it’s always a learning experience. But it’s so dang fulfilling.  I’ve been leaning into The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook and also The Elliott Homestead Family Table Cookbook for meat curing how to.

Highlight of the week

One day this week when the weather was in the 90’s (they said it felt like 104) we were really roughing it. I put on my swim suit upon waking and never took it off until bedtime. I’d hang a load of laundry, then have to cool off in the pool. I’d cook breakfast, then have to get in the pool. I’d take the trash out, then have to jump in. It was a little crazy. Mike probably went through three outfits doing chores. So the following day when the weather was the same, we just weren’t feeling it. Right after breakfast we decided to just run errands and do anything we could to be in air, even driving in a car. We hit up a matinee and saw Incredibles 2. It’s so funny how much the weather dictates the flow of our days on the homestead.

Have a blessed weekend,

Angela

 

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