The chill of winter is upon us, and I need a place to plant my seeds!

It’s 17 degrees here in Southern Vermont today.  The wind is blowing at a pretty constant rate with the exception of the 50 mph gusts.  The chickens are still on the ground though every time I walk by the window I fully expect to see them go flying by the window.

Despite the fact that the winter chill is upon us, I want to talk to you about gardening and containers, or other alternative food growing strategies.

We came to the realization today, that we are not going to be able to have a garden next year.  We can’t begin breaking ground for our new house until April 15th.  After that day we are going to be busy for sure, but every place where we might have put our garden, is likely to get dug up by the excavator in order to set the basement for our new digs.  Hmmph.

This has me thinking about container gardening.  There are countless posts out there about container gardening, I’m not uncovering any long lost unknown gardening secrets here, I get that.  There are pots, rubbermaid totes, cardboard boxes for potatoes etc.

We do have 3.25 acres to play with, but not knowing what will be dug up or driven over, I think it’s best not to plant anything in the cleared spaces.  What I DO have an abundance of….is forest.  Imagine how reach and peaty the soil is out there?  I suppose though, that the deer would probably agree with me.  Scratch that!

I’ve also considered getting involved in a CSA so that at least I’ll have fresh veggies each week, but you know…I live in Vermont.  There are Farmer’s Markets all summer long, produce stands on every country road, do I really need to commit to a box full of stuff I might not be in the mood to use?

I’m being whiny, I know that.  Bear with me.  What are your favorite alternative gardening solutions? Where’s the wackiest place you’ve grown a tomato? Zucchini? Help a girl out!?

Leave a comment for me below, pretty please?

Advertisements

How NOT to make applesauce, and why you should sleep with your squash!

If you are anything like me, you are busy.  Too busy, in fact, to begin your applesauce canning project with the fantastical trip to the local apple orchard, complete with sticky cider donuts, wagon rides through the fruit trees, or the Kodak moments around every corner.

Instead, I jockey for a position in the parking lot dusty field.  I walk into a building filled with people oohing and aahing over pumpkins, squash, pies, cheddar cheese, and again, the sticky cider donuts.  I heft a bag of Macintosh apples over my shoulder, pay for them and haul them back to the car.

When I get home with my apples (and ok, you caught me, cider donuts) I lean the bushel bag up against the fridge and just live with them for a while.  I need a plan of attack.Image

I set up the counter with the apple peeler thingamajig and three bowls.  One for peels, and two for naked apples, to be cut up.

Image

I saddle up the peeler with the first apple.  It doesn’t go very well, but i chalk this up to inexperience, and continue with another apple.  After botched apple number three, I throw the peeler in the trash. I never liked gadgets anyway.  I can never adjust it correctly, it wobbles all over the place.  Instead, I go for my trusty paring knife.

Image

One hour and one cold cramped hand later, I put two pots of apples on the stove to cook down, and head out to the chicken coop with some of the apple peels.

Image

On my back from the coop, my lovely neighbor Meghan calls to me.  I walk over to the fence, and we begin to gab like good neighbors do on a sunny Saturday morning.  After 20 minutes or so, I jump, and remember, Oh shoot! I have apples on the stove!!!  I dash inside, and thank goodness, I was just in time!  The stainless steel pot was fine, but dutch oven (which gets VERY hot and STAYS very hot) was sporting some brownish burned carmelized looking apples.  I added some cinnamon and brown sugar to these, no one needs to know they are brown from overcooking right!?  What’s the lesson you should take away from my story?  Do not walk away from the stove when you are cooking apples, or bacon, or anything else that is wretched when completely overcooked.  This could have ended on a much worse note!Image

Image

Finally, as promised, I want to tell you why you should sleep with your squash.  Winter squash can last all winter if you store them properly.  I used to keep mine in the cellar, but it proved too cold, and too damp for them, they wouldn’t make it past the two week mark.  I read somewhere that sliding winter squash under your bed in a cool bedroom was the way to go..so this is what I have done.  I can just imagine what the folks that looked at our house yesterday must have thought of the weird pile of squash in the corner!  So use them as a decoration piece, slide them under the bed, or line them up against the mopboards….if your bedroom is cool and dry, you’ll be good to go!

Image 

 

 

Sunday Procrastination

It’s cooling off here in Vermont.  It’s usually between 40 and 50 degrees in the morning.  This makes it awfully easy to hide behind a warm cuppa and procrastinate.  Today, I am procrastinating on the half bushel of apples that i have waiting for me in the kitchen.  My intention is apple sauce, here are my roadblocks:

1. I don’t have a food mill which means I’ll have to PEEL and then quarter and seed all of the apples.

2. I have a freezer on the fritz that I am trying to empty and unplug so I have to can it vs. freezing it.

 

Having said that, it’s 8:20 AM and I have yet to do ANYTHING other than cruise Facebook, and drink coffee.

Homesteading took a back seat to our new real estate, we have spent the last two weekends working on that, cutting trees, hauling brush, chipping brush, digging in the dirt, popping stumps, moving rocks, and in general exhausting ourselves and feeling slightly overwhelmed at any given turn.

I essentially walked away from the larger garden at my folks place.  This was not a great year for that garden either, we lost ALL of the potatoes, not sure why, possibly because of harvest errors.  The corn was mediocre, the cauliflower got away from us….. *sigh*  The kale was fantastic though, we did eat a lot of that.  I’d prefer to look back on this gardening season as “the season that shall not be named” and just move onward and upward!

I’ll leave you with some photos….and a heavy sigh, while I shuffle off to the kitchen to start on the apples.

On the left is a photo of the cone like green cauliflower that we tried, still haven’t eaten any, It’s blanched and frozen sitting in the freezer.  The beans were an heirloom variety, the name escapes me, but they were an integral part of the 3 sister garden that we planted.  The corn is also beautiful, but inedible, it never matured…..The beans have lovely purple splotches on them.  They are sweet and delicious.  We have saved a pile of them for seed for next year….we saved the corn as well.  Till next time….

IMG_0238 IMG_0237

The further I go, the behinder I get!

I’m behind! I’m late! I’m out of wack, stumbling in the rear of the crowd!  Seriously.  We embarked on a hurry up and buy before the rates go up real estate adventure this summer that somehow , along with a new job after 8 years of the old one REALLY thew me for a loop from which I have been trying to untangle myself.

Our homestead garden, through beautifully thick with weeds, is producing some lovely corn, green beans, last years tomatoes and two types of “yet to be identified” squash.

The farm garden …. *sigh*  wasn’t so much fun this year, and didn’t have a tremendous yield.  Darnit, they never look as pretty s the gardens in the Johnny’s  catalog, why IS that???  Bless my Mother’s heart because she is a paraeducator who stays home all summer, her job, is the garden.  We’ve harvested red and green kale, beets, carrots, early red potatoes, lettuce, green beans, summer squash,  and zucchini.  It’s nearly time for the regular taters and both red and yellow onions.  We did not yield enough for two household.  I have been too lazy to go pick and can my share because the home improvements to the current homestead are exhausting, especially when coupled with the constant hoop-jumping needed to buy the next piece of real estate.  Thank goodness it’s just land, much easier than buying land AND a house.

Having complained through an entire post said all of that, I have recently become quite fond fond of the following blog, and wanted to share.

The Deliberate Agrarian 

I admire Herrick’s lifestyle, his ideas, his writing style and his commitment to his faith and family.  Thank you Herrick for keeping me motivated to keep moving in the self sufficient direction when the rat race and real estate beats me down!

G’night good people….

Pitbulls and baby roosters.

Alrighty readers, I’m about to give you (I hope) a bit of a giggle, so polish up your imagination skills, and read on.

It’s 4:45 am.  I hear the unmistakable sounds of a 7 week old Barred Rock Rooster trying to crow.  Now if I had to try to explain this sound…well…I guess I can’t, it’s pitiful, it sounds maybe like what would happen if you squeezed your cat too hard.  He must be embarrassed by it also because he only “crows” from indoors.  Poor thing.

So, it’s 4:45, it’s already hot outside, and this day isn’t getting off to a very good start in my mind.  I roll over disgusted, and what do I see out the window, but a happy little reddish tail wagging through a forest of creeping myrtle in the woods beyond the babies chicken coop.  Great.  There is a pitbull that lives a couple of doors down, I knew it was her.  I JUMP out of bed and throw on my bathrobe and my flip flops and head out back.  I try to shoo this dog away, but she is in fact, just a pup, and now she wants to play, with the babies, or me, she can’t decide.

The babies are trying to fly away, they fly straight up, into the chicken wire, screeching and squawking like crazy, feathers are flying everywhere.  The older birds, across the yard are looking on and probably thinking… “Hmmph…amateurs”

So here I am, bleary eyed, trying to shoo this cute pup away from the chickens.  She assumes the play position…and I realize that this is going nowhere.  Enter….the owner.  In his underwear. Yeah. I couldn’t make this up.

He launches into some stammering about “now I know why she always wants to come over here” and I’m just nodding and yawning and trying not to make eye contact….

This is my life.

Homesteading or Blogging, you choose! or…I choose?

I have not had time for either homesteading or blogging for the past few weeks, we have been knee deep in real-estate business.  We have listed out home for sale which prompted some skeeziks (that’s a made  word) to hijack our listing and use it for a rental scam on Craig’s List.  Next, perhaps related, perhaps unrelated, someone dialed 911 from my landline…into which NO phone is plugged.  Yeah.  Strange.

Then we proceeded to make an offer on a piece of land that we’d previously turned our noses up at….and now we have it under contract and we’re jumping through every hoop that the bank can pull out of their bag of tricks.  It’s nearly perfect for homesteading.  It’s 3.25 acres.  Only 1/2 acre is the building lot, the rest is all woods, so we have firewood, streams, and plenty of room to clear off for critters!  The gardens will have to be raised beds because it’s fairly rocky and clay laden.

In the mean time, the babies have gotten so big!  We don’t seem to have any roosters which is good….but they are rapidly outgrowing their coop, so we need to relocate the older hens to make room for the smaller ones.  I think our 4 Amber Links and our last remaining Rhode Island Red will go live at the farm, as they are still good layers.

Here are the babies.  I especially love the Auracanas, so i took a few extra snaps of them.

ImageImage

e

Lots of chirping going on….

We have added 13 new birds to our flock.  We purchased 14, one little barred rock didn’t make it.  My youngest named her Sandra, made a coffin for her out of a cream cheese box and we buried her in the back yard.

We have 6 Silver Laced Wyandotte girls, 5 mixed Barred Rocks and 2 Auracana girls.  Outdoors in the big hen house we have 4 Amber Links and one old Rhode Island Red, who is the loudest chicken EVER.

ImageWe had a frost last night, though a light one….it’s been pretty chilly here in Southeastern Vermont for the past 48 hours.  We moved the babies inside…so far the peas seem unscathed, and we didnt’ have anything else tender and exposed, so I think we’re in good shape.  It’s nearly planting time, and when I saw the mountain of potatoes and onions taht we ordered, I got a little nervous!!!  Also, we have found  ZERO scalloped squash seeds anywhere in the area, which Mr. gray needs for his “three sisters” garden.  I think this weekend a ride wil be in order to widen the search area a little bit.  Pictures to come! It should look pretty neat.