This Month On The Farm: July 2020


July's weather was full-on summer complete with heat, humidity, and lots o' sunshine.  And surprisingly, a lack of mosquitoes.  Hooray for that!  We did receive some rain and when we did, oh boy was it a lot.

Tents - Not Just For Camping
As you can see in the photo above, we decided to make use of a couple of our extra craft show tents and set them up on the upper and lower decks.  On the upper deck it's wide open, used just for rain cover and shade (Ollie is afraid of the netting walls so we left them off).  On the lower deck we used the netting walls and put our outdoor table and chairs inside so we can enjoy eating or sitting outside without bugs attacking.  Ollie, as noted, is afraid of the walls but if he's sitting in his tower with me by his side, he deals with it ok.

gutters and rain barrel installed!
Barrels Of Rain
Woo hoo!  Jay was able to get the gutters installed on the outbuildings and the rain barrels are up and working.  This has been on our "someday" list for years.  Years!  We've been able to successfully use the barrels to water the garden through most of the month, only needing to resort to our well water a couple of times.


Harvesting
As I've mentioned (probably too many times), our garden is mostly shaded.  We receive morning sun over about 70% of it and afternoon sun for a few hours over it all, and it's fully shaded the remainder of the day.  And so, our harvesting starts late.  Then, of course, we had the infamous whistle pig debacle that set us back a bit but we are now enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Green beans are coming in by the bushel.  I know that many people don't enjoy frozen green beans but we do, so I grow enough to enjoy fresh weekly as well as enough to put up in the freezer for winter and springtime eating.  I planted 3 types this year: Blue Lake, Red Noodle, and Calima Bush Beans.  The Red Noodle are still small and green but this is the first year we've planted them so, fingers crossed, they are delicious.

We finally have tomatoes!!!  Well, we finally have ripe tomatoes!  We have a ton, I mean TON, of green tomatoes amidst the 25 plants so we will definitely have plenty for fresh eating as well as for oven-drying to freeze for sauce during the winter.

We are also harvesting onions, cabbage, kale, swiss chard, mixed greens, arugula, microgreens, peppers (jalapeno, ancho, and bell), summer squash, zucchini, the last of the peas, beets, blueberries, blackberries, herbs and radish.

our sweet potato hill

Sadly, our pear and asian pear trees did not do well this year.  I've ordered new "partners" for them (and the paw paw tree) so our hope is we will be swimming in their fruits in a couple of years!  And our whistle pig took out all of our summer broccoli and cauliflower so we won't be harvesting either of those until fall.

At the start of the season I would grab a big bowl from the cupboard and Ollie and I would head to the garden to harvest whatever was ready.  One day, as my bowl was so full the veggies were spilling out of it, Jay looked at me and said "you need a bucket or a basket or something".  I said "I know.  Someone I follow on Instagram just posted a picture of her harvest basket that her husband made.  It was nice - metal mesh and wood sides and handle.  You're too busy though, so maybe next year."  I didn't give it another thought.

Later in the week Jay comes out of his shop holding the PERFECT harvest basket.  He had made it in between other projects he was working on.  Such a sweet gift! 

So now, Ollie and I take our harvest basket with us to the garden on our daily check-in.


looking up one of our mammoth sunflowers

the 2 mammoth sunflowers that survived the whistle pig feast are on the left
Homestead Projects
We have a list of projects that we are hoping to accomplish before fall.  We've managed to check off some of the easier projects, but not so much the larger projects.  Here's what we're chipping away at:
  • paint the dining room (done)
  • stain the back deck (done)
  • paint the living room
  • fix columns and lay new flooring on one of the two front porches (second porch will be done next year)
  • paint 2 sides of the house (same color, just refreshing it - the other 2 sides will be done next year)
  • install fence around the garden (temporarily done - permanent fencing will be done next spring)
  • build and install a new outdoor pole light in the front yard
  • build a small nesting box area/water station for garden (so when the chickens are tasked with the garden fall clean-up, they have a place to lay eggs)
  • chop and stack wood for the woodstove in the shop (done although we may chop a bit more)
  • install gutters on the outbuildings and hook-up rain barrels (done)
  • create a raised bed hoop house for one of our garden beds so we can grow greens through late fall/early winter (done for now - we purchased/found the items needed to make this in fall)

Animals
We are not going to add any more animals to the homestead for now and that includes chickens.  The current flock will get smaller, gradually, as the inevitable happens.  We had one pass away this week, she was one of the older girls, and we fully anticipate a few more passing this year from old age.  It certainly doesn't get any easier to deal with death, but at least we have developed a bit of a plan now, of keeping them safe and comfortable during the process.  We also know more about signs, because with chickens, they usually mask illness.  This helps us so we can watch closer and try to make sure they are protected.  

Death is one of the parts of having animals that is so difficult.  Unfortunately, as birds become sick and/or begin the dying process, some of the others can become very cannibalistic.  It's not a pretty sight.  So once we see that one of the girls isn't feeling well, we are able to remove them, but not totally, from the flock.  They are social creatures, so full removal seems to make them stressed and upset.  Instead, we make sure they are separated by a fence allowing them to still feel a part of the flock without getting incessantly pecked at and stepped on.  And no, we don't let them suffer.  If there's any sign of that, and we've done all we can do to make them well, we step in.  

Our overall plan is to get out of the egg-selling business and keep a very small flock (6-8 girls).  With a flock of 24 girls, it will take some time for the flock to naturally reduce (we're down from the 32 we had last year), so we won't be bringing in any chicks until we have less then 8 girls.


zucchini chocolate chip muffins
What Do You Do With All Of That Zucchini?
Isn't this the question you ask yourself every single year?  I always think I have a plan to keep up with it but I struggle by August.  I give it a heck of an effort though.  Here's what we've been doing with our zucchini:
  • slicing it lengthwise and grilling it (alternatively, you could broil or bake it).  We both love it.  Jay sprinkles a bit of parmesan on his and I like mine plain.  It's sooooo juicy and delicious.
  • cutting it into chunks and sautéing it with onions and corn.  I add a bit of butter to Jay's and mine is plain.  We just love the combination.
  • stuffing it.  As noted in this weekending post (at the bottom), I always enjoy coming up with new stuffing ideas.  The key is to bake, boil, or grill the scooped out zucchini halves before you fill and bake them so they are nice and soft once finished.
  • making our very favorite chocolate zucchini cake. Even my husband who isn't the world's biggest chocolate fan LOVES both versions.  The original version is here.  The healthier/reduced oil and sugar version is here.
  • making Kate's recipe for healthier zucchini bread.
  • making zucchini and chocolate chip muffins.  They are ah-mazing!  I just realized I've never shared the recipe here.  I'll try to get that on the blog!
  • making zucchini noodles with homemade pesto.  Soooo good!
  • adding zucchini to grilled kebabs.  (everything gets marinated in italian dressing first)
  • adding zucchini to soups such as minestrone.
  • making zucchini cobbler.  (tastes just like apple cobbler)
  • making veggie stew.  I use zucchini and whatever fresh veg is in the garden to make stew as the temps begin to drop in the fall.
I'm not a big fan of eating it raw (there's a weirdness to it) or as zucchini "fries", so those didn't make the list.  We've made zucchini pickles in the past but we aren't huge pickle eaters so I haven't been making them.  

I'd love to hear your family's favorite ways to eat zucchini!


Oliver, my garden/kitchen/preserving/everything helper
Preserving, Or, What We'll Be Eating This Winter
Since our garden is now in full swing, the preserving process has finally begun!  

Green beans - as noted above, they are being put up in the freezer weekly.
Peppers - so far we've only collected enough jalapeno's to preserve, so those have been made into pickled jalapeno rings.
Relish - our cucumbers are struggling this year.  I've never had an issue with cukes, so I'm not sure what's happening.  So we purchased some cucumbers from the farmer's market and, along with our bell peppers and onions we'll can enough relish for my husband to enjoy with his occasional hot dog lunch.
Zucchini - I did freeze some grated zucchini (portioned into 2 cup servings) that I can add to muffins, quick breads, etc.
Onions - we are drying quite a few and then I'll chop and freeze the remainder.

How do you figure out how much veggies to preserve?  This is a question I receive a lot.  For us, this is how I plan it.  We typically rotate the same dishes all winter long so I can usually predict how often during the week we'll eat veggies such as green beans, broccoli, winter squash, tomato sauce, etc.  I then times that by how many weeks we'll need preserved food and that's how I calculate it.  So, as an example, I plan on serving green beans twice a week for 28 weeks which means I will need to freeze 56 bags of green beans (bagged in single-serving sizes).  

It gets a bit more difficult with carrots, corn, onions, canned chopped tomatoes, and peppers because I use them on their own as well as in many different dishes.  Over time, through trial and error, I've made it so I can get pretty close.  For the frozen veggies, I flash-freeze them and then store them in large, gallon-size bags, so I can just take out what I need when I'm cooking.


That's July around the homestead!

5 comments

Kathy said...

Your garden looks like it's thriving and I love the harvest basket what a lovely surprize for you. Kathy, Brisbane

Unknown said...

Staci,
I just stumbled on your blog and I must say I love it! Such charming pictures of your property, gardens, and animals. Excited to try some of those zucchini recipes. They are coming in so quickly now! We have a Scottish Terrier named Emmett, or Emmie, Emerson, and Em for short. Love seeing pictures of your sweet Emmie! Thank you for creating such a beautiful, peaceful, inspiring blog! Looking forward to reading more!

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Kathy - thank you. Yes, we are blessed that our garden is definitely thriving!

Unknown - I'm so happy you found us!! Here is something funny - our Emerson's birth name was Emmett. :) Thank you so much for your kind words.

daisy g said...

Looks like you have made a HUGE dent in your to-do list! The rain barrel looks great there. You'll be so glad you did that. I use ours all the time for watering or cleaning out bins and pots and such.

Question-Can you freeze green beans in glass jars? I am trying to do away with as much plastic as possible. Looking for alternative ways to freeze things, as I have no desire at this moment to start canning.

Now having chickens, I have to ask. What do you do when a bird passes on? So glad to hear about how to separate them if they are having problems. Can you recommend a good general book on chicken care? I am wanting to immerse myself in everything poultry right now!

Oliver looks good. I'm sure he misses his buddy, but I'm so grateful he is doing well.

Lovely muffins! Are they sugar free?

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Hi Daisy - I'm sure you can freeze green beans in freezer-safe glass jars. I'll be trying that eventually, but have not yet. I am also ridding the house of plastic. The only thing I'm not certain of is how long they keep without getting freezer burnt.

We bury our coop girls when they pass. Thankfully we've had the space to do so and with decreasing our flock size, we should be able to continue doing this. You can google just about anything chicken-related but I do love the Chicken Health Handbook. It's an overwhelming amount of information but I learned so much from it. It made me more confident in caring for sick or injured birds.

Thanks so much for stopping by!