This Month On The Homestead: May 2021

 
we found this upstairs in the barn


pressing flowers

It's a beautiful morning as I type this.  The mornings are still cool so a cup of hot tea remains my go-to beverage.  I combine decaf green tea and dried herbs.  I try to drink green tea daily because of the benefits but I detest the flavor so I have to combine it with a blend that will overpower it.  Ollie is next to me, taking his first nap of many for the day and Jack is, well, being Jack.  He's trying to get me to tell him he's naughty.  I have no idea why but that seems to make his day.  So he is sliding one of the throw rugs around, running at full speed and trying to knock things off of the end table on his way by, and just being a crazy guy.

Welcome to my "office".  I love that this is where I live AND work.

I've already gotten the coop girls up and will soon be heading out to check on the garden, conduct a brief weeding session, check on the new flowers in the front yard, and then I'll get to work with Ollie by my side.  

It doesn't get much better.


May is officially over.  It's one of my favorite months and I think it's one that always zips on by.  The weather is always a mix, the busyness of the homestead is at an all-time high, the wild birds are nesting and raising their littles, and there is the excitement of fruit and veggies starting to produce. 

After having a stretch of summer-like weather where we actually turned the a/c on for a bit (in our bedroom only) I turned the pellet stove on for a few hours over Memorial Day weekend.  It was chilly.  Because both Friday and Saturday were rainy and in the low 40's I decided we needed a little warmth.  Jay shook his head at me.  Oliver and I were cozy though.

Spring seems the right time for planning changes I want to make to the growing spaces we have.  I view our homesteading journey as 3 phases.  Phase 1 was buying an old farmhouse and beginning our journey.  Phase 2 was figuring out how we could be self-employed and work full-time from our homestead.  Both of those phases have been completed.  The next goal is Phase 3 which is setting up our property and life to become as self-reliant as we possibly can.  We've, of course, been working toward this goal but have still got a ways to go.  

As I noted earlier this year, we came to a conclusion that we would need to join a CSA this summer and fall to provide us with additional fruit and veggies due mostly to our lack of time to grow what we need and partly due to our lack of space.  My goal for the next 2 years is to make more planting areas around our property so (hopefully) we'll be in a good place with providing almost all veggies and quite a bit of our fruit.  

We don't desire to bring any more animals to our little homestead.  There just isn't a need for it.  Jay is the only one who eats meat & dairy so it doesn't make sense to us to devote any of our limited space to raising animals for either.  We are working with less than an acre which means we have to weigh every decision.  Since we have friends who raise animals for meat we will continue to buy and barter from them.  We do plan to keep a small flock of laying hens for eggs.  They are also great at eating scraps, tilling our garden in fall, and contributing their droppings to our compost.




In The Garden - We have pears!!  Well, they aren't close to ready but at least we have them.  Our Asian Pear tree and our grafted pear tree (6 different types) are full of them.  How happy that makes me.  And we have peas!!  The sugar snaps are producing prolifically.  The snow peas are very slowly beginning to flower.  Our garlic is not coming along very quickly either but we have been able to pull some onions that were left from last year (accidentally), carrots that I had seeded last fall for a spring harvest, a LOT of asparagus, and greens.

I have greens planted in a few different beds and in one of them some critter has been enjoying my kale starts.  But the kale in another bed has been left alone.  I was also randomly placing beet seeds in the cruciferous bed between plants.  Well, some critter went through and pulled every single seed within 2 days of me placing them.  Little divets in the soil where the seeds were is what gave it away.  It left the rest of the beets alone, however, and they are doing well.  

Since I pulled out our strawberry plants a few years ago we no longer grow our own but I'm hoping they'll be showing up at the farmers market in the next couple of weeks.  I may grow them again, I'm not sure.  The main problem we had was keeping the chipmunks from taking one bite out of each ripe berry before we could pick them.  When we netted them, hoping to keep most of our berries whole, we spent all day pulling very angry chippies out of the netting.  We just don't have the space to grow enough for both us and them so I'm not sure.  I LOVE strawberries so it's tough.  If you have any ideas I would love to hear them!

have you ever tried growing celtuce?

A new (to us) veggie I'm trying in the garden this year is celtuce.  Have you grown this before? It's basically a type of lettuce but grown more for it's stem than for the leaves, although both are edible and (according to what I've read) delicious.  I purchased the seeds from Baker Creek a couple of years ago and finally remembered to plant it this year.  If you're interested, here's the Baker Creek link (not an affiliate link) to the variety I have.  It's high in vitamins and minerals and used most often in stir fry dishes.  I put half a dozen seeds in the ground so we will see what it's like!


Not garden related, but yard related.  Our wild ferns have gone, well, wild.  They are enormous around the woodshop!  I'll have to transplant about half of them next spring.  I have a bed on the side of our house that remains shaded where they will be perfect.  Have any of you transplanted ferns?  I'm just curious how they will take the move.  If you have any tips or advice, I'd love it if you shared.  Our plan is to build a small deck off of the woodshop, right where half of the ferns are, so I would like to try and save them.



Putting Food Up - well, we don't put much up in the spring.  We eat all of our asparagus fresh.  I've tried to put some of it in the freezer in years past but it's just sooooo good freshly picked that very little of it makes it to the freezer.  

I spent some time gathering dandelions early on in the month.  I use all parts fresh and dried.  Dehydrated,the flowers, leaves, and roots for use in many things including dandelion salve and tea.  

I used to can Rhubarb Syrup Concentrate but I haven't put that up in a few years because I just don't drink sweet drinks anymore and Jay rarely drank it.  Any greens we harvest we eat fresh and the sugar snap peas rarely make it into the house let alone get processed for keeping.  If I am successful in getting many snow peas I will likely blanche and freeze quite a few of those. 

I'm hoping to be able to start the jam-making season with Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, Strawberry Honey Jam, and Strawberry Balsamic Jam soon!



In The Kitchen - a good portion of the month was warm so I tried not to run the oven too much.  We've transitioned, for the most part, over to our summer menu which includes a lot of quick meals, including those made on the stove-top, in the air fryer and for Jay, on the grill.

For treats I was able to make a Rhubarb Snack Cake and Rhubarb Quick Bread.  Both are favorites around here.  With the quick bread I converted it to vegan by using flax seed "eggs" and also used honey instead of sugar (and cut the amount in half).  It was delicious.  It made the bread flat - it didn't have the nice rise it usually has, but the flavor was perfect.


I don't make much bread during the warmer months although I do make rolls for burgers, brats, etc. and freeze them.  We also enjoy the occasional homemade soft pretzel with honey mustard sauce for lunch.  


I whipped up a batch of oil-free granola.  It's delicious and much lower fat  than traditional.  I use just a little bit of honey or maple syrup to sweeten it and store it in the freezer to preserve it throughout summer.  It makes a great, quick breakfast.



Oliver & Jackson - both are doing well.  Jack is Jack and continues acting like a kitten despite being 10 years old.  That's not a bad thing - it's good that he feels healthy enough to act so immature.  You may recall that he now sleeps in his own room at night because he couldn't stop himself from picking at Oliver all night.  Well he seems to love it.  He gets very excited about his nightly tuck-in and if I'm late I hear about it.



Oliver is holding his own.  Some days he's quite feisty and others he's more reserved.  I'm assuming it just depends on how he feels that day.  Sleeping at night has been challenging from time-to-time once again.  I'm not sure what happens to make evenings tough because it happens even when he's had a good day.  



In The Coop - the Coop Girls are doing well.  We are down to 25 girls and most of them are laying at least a few days a week giving us about 6 dozen eggs each week.   I would suspect, based on their ages, we will lose a few more before the year is over.  Our hope is to keep a flock of 12 or fewer once they naturally reduce to that number.   Jay only goes through about 6 eggs a week, and I don't use them at all for baking, so that should be perfect.


living room radiator

dining room radiator

Around The House - my husband made radiator covers!!!  I've been wanting them and he was able to complete one for the living room and one for the dining room before summer!  We designed them together and he built them - a perfect partnership. 😉  He used a slab of mahogany he had hanging around his woodshop for the living room cover and we were gifted a gray elm table to use for projects.  

Our dining room table is gray elm so we were hoping to find a (reasonably priced) slab to make a radiator cover with.  Lo and behold friends of ours had a table that was just sitting in storage.  The top was gray elm!  While the stain didn't match at all it was no problem as my handyman sanded it and re-stained it to match.



At Cobble Hill Farm Soap - our summer limited edition soap scents are out and so is our very popular bug spray.  Our farmers market traffic has picked up early this year.  Usually it doesn't get busy until mid-June but we are grateful that it happened a month early this year.  Our online store continues to be busy which is fantastic too!


That's May around the homestead.  Hoping you had a wonderful month as well!

5 comments

Kathy said...

The radiator cover looks amazing and I love the timber and the colour below. I still can't believe it takes so long to grow asparagus. Not a favourite of mine however when I used to work in the city years ago for lunch I used to order a toasted chicken, cheese and asparagus sandwich which I LOVED. It would have been the asparagus in the jar which is soft and you can mash it on the sandwich....ahh..yum.

Windy Meadows Farm said...

You have been oh-so busy! It was great to read up on the latest happenings...I absolutely agree: May does fly.

Yes, I've transplanted ferns...very easy. My mother-in-law had many at her home and happily shared. I simply scooped them up, getting lots of the surrounding dirt, and put them in their new home. It took a couple of years, but this year, they're at their biggest and best.

Quick question; on the jam: I've never seen Pomona’s Universal Pectin Powder locally. Can I substitute Ball? More berries are coming in soon and those recipes sound good!

Thanks too for sharing your goals...it keeps me inspired to keep working toward my own.

Mary

Staci said...

Thanks Kathy! Asparagus only takes a couple of years although the really good stalks (my opinion) start about year 4. :)

Mary - fantastic! I'm happy you've had success moving ferns, that gives me a lot of hope!

Regarding the pectin, I'm not sure if they are interchangeable or not but the bigger problem is that Pomona's allows for less sugar so you would have to ensure the recipe had enough sugar to be safe to use the Ball pectin. The only place I've located Pomona's is at our health food stores so yes, it definitely can be tough to find.

Windy Meadows Farm said...

Staci - thanks for the pectin information. Maybe best not to try and substitute...that doesn't always work out. Also wanted to tell you, I received a Ball Jam & Jelly maker for Christmas and I love it! So easy...no standing at the stove stirring. It only produces small batches (nearly 4, 8-oz. jars) and needs to cool 30 minutes between sessions. But I've found by the time I had filled jars and had them processing in the canner, the maker had cooled so I could begin another batch. And yes, it doesn't quite fill a 4th jar, but it could be spooned in to 4-oz jars...perfect for gift giving. (thinking ahead!)

Staci said...

Mary - very good to know, thank you! I actually completely forgot about the jam & jelly maker. I had thought about getting one a few years ago but wasn't sure and then it slipped my mind..... We don't eat a lot of jam or jelly so I don't tend to can too much so this could be a good thing to consider!