Frank’s Cinnamon Toast

Frank needed a little something different to eat. Something that just tasted different, but was still part of our low carbohydrate way of living. After some pondering and discussion, we came up with this.

A normal batch of our sourdough bread dough with about twice the honey and two tablespoons of cinnamon. I made the dough extra stiff with a drier consistency than I do for the buns.

After letting the dough ferment all day, I divided it in half and pressed each half into a large cookie sheet, kind of like making pizza. I discovered it needed very little olive oil on the pan, much less that making buns since I am not turning and coating the dough.

Frank likes his toast thin, somewhat well done, and crunchy. We’ve experimented for a while and this is the finished product.

One baked, one not

I brush on a thin coating of olive oil when it is done.


Recently we discovered that some chevre cheese with strawberries, blueberries, some of the berry juice, non-iodized salt and a little honey, makes a great topping for this toast. Frank will eat it with the cheese on it, he likes it, but he still prefers his toast plain. You see, when we have a snack, it’s normally bread. Sometimes regular buns, sliced made into toast in a skillet. Good bread makes a good snack and this cinnamon toast provides us with a different variation.

Gotta have treats in life sometimes, even when storms are on the horizon. Stay alert, vigilant and strong. The winds of change are among us.

Until next time,  Fern

Homestead News, Volume 2

I don’t know where the time goes, but lately it has gone flying by. So much so, that I really have to think about everything we’ve been doing. I’m sure I’ll forget some things that I wanted to tell you, but here goes. News from the homestead.

Before

It’s easier to remember what happened today first. We started off by taking Pearl to the vet for a haircut. For the past few years, I have been giving her a haircut with scissors, and we were looking into some clippers when we discovered that the vet’s wife gives a ‘country cut’, or that’s what she likes to call it. So this morning Pearl was transformed. And all that hair only weighed two pounds! She will be much cooler with our hot, humid summer weather coming.

After

 

The next exciting thing that happened today is that Penny, her two boys, and Buttons moved to Faith’s house. Faith has long wanted to have goats, so today was a dream come true for her. She asked me when they were leaving if I was crying. She knows I have cried before when some of my adult does have left, but not this time. I was excited and happy for Faith. Besides that, we went over and visited them already this afternoon. Faith and her husband have a great place set up in their barn for the goats, as well as lots and lots of pasture/wooded area for them to graze once they get acclimated. That made this a very neat day.

 

Penny and boys
Buttons

At their new home

The garden is really starting to grow well, and to my eyes gets more beautiful every day. I ran our Mantis tiller around the squash hills and here and there to knock down the weeds before this latest round of rainy weather hit. I also managed to replant the okra and some of the cow peas, cucumbers, carrots, spinach and beets that didn’t make it. The green beans that I replanted last week are doing great. It’s a new variety that we haven’t tried before. I’ll let you know if we like them.

 

The new section of the garden didn’t grow anything. I’m not sure if the seeds were old or got washed out by the heavy rain we had a few weeks ago. So far the only thing I have replanted there was more pinto beans along the trellis. The rest will have to wait for drier days again.

We have started eating turnip greens and salad fixings from the garden regularly. Tomorrow I am going to try my hand at freezing turnip greens like you do spinach. I have the directions in Stocking Up, and thought I would give it a try. We don’t expect the actual turnips to make since hot weather is coming, but are very happy to be able to enjoy the greens for now.

 

We moved the water tanks away from the barn so Frank could brush hog there. Our plan is to put down some heavy plastic, build a base with treated lumber, fill it with sand, allow that to settle in, put guttering on the barn, place the three 1550 gallon tanks on the pads, and run the guttering into the tanks. This will give us water for the animals, as well as the ‘animal feed’ garden we are going to plant in this pasture if it ever dries up enough to really work on the ground.

We’ve continued to make wheels of cheddar about two days a week and are up to 12 wheels aging in the frig, with 4 more drying on the cabinet. We will make two more wheels tomorrow and wax at least two of those that are drying. 

We have been saving eggs for the incubator which Frank will fire up tomorrow. This will give us some meat, but the concentration on this first batch will be replacement hens for our current flock. We have a Buff rooster which we like, and he will add some good qualities like size and demeanor, to our next flock of hens. We will probably hatch two more batches through the summer to resupply our freezer and some jars with meat.

This coming week we have another big event taking place. One week from today, if all goes according to plan, we will be bringing home three piglets, two boars and one gilt. We are beginning a whole new adventure raising American Guinea Hogs. One of the boars will be raised for meat, the other for breeding. We will share our adventures, which we hope will be mostly successful, as we go along. This is something we have never done before. We have fed out a few feeder pigs along the way, but never raised any to breed, so keep your fingers crossed for us. We have chosen this particular breed for very specific reasons, which we will discuss in more detail in another article dedicated specifically to the pigs.

We continue to make and consume sauerkraut almost everyday. The batch we started on April 22nd was removed from the crock yesterday. We used one whole head of cabbage and it made about a quart and a half of kraut. Instead of removing about a third of it and leaving the rest in the crock, this time I removed all of it and started another batch. The new batch consists of about one and two thirds head of cabbage and about two cups of shredded carrots. Since I have started shredding the cabbage there isn’t any issue with having enough natural juices to cover the vegetables in the crock. I continue to add a good amount of juice from the previous batch to boost the fermentation process. We have really begun to enjoy the kraut and are very glad we have been learning this process.

 

Each time we walk out the door, if the wind is not blowing too much, we are greeted with the wonderful aroma of honeysuckle. It is blooming in profusion.

There are also lots of wild privet blooming here and yon around the house and along the fence rows. It is more subtle than the honeysuckle, but smells wonderful all by itself.

The wild blackberries are growing by the bazillion. I really look forward to picking and picking and picking. Last year I did an article about free food for the picking. I wonder if anyone else around is eyeing all of this free food the way I am.

We are picking just enough strawberries to have some each morning with our breakfast. There is just no comparison to frozen and fresh. They are a welcome addition to our daily fare.

Now, it’s time to go feed and milk the goats, gather the eggs, put the chickens to bed, feed the dog and cats, and see if any of the goats laughed at Pearl’s haircut. She does look rather different. Then it’s time to fix supper, finish up this post and wait for the next round of storms to come through. Life is busy and blessed. 

Until next time – Fern

Garden Tour, End of April

We have had far more rainy, cloudy days this month than sun, and it shows. The garden is getting off to a slow start, but it is growing. I didn’t count the number of sunny days compared to the cloudy ones, but this year, it would have been an interesting statistic. There are still many folks around that are just now trying to get things planted, and it is still very, very wet. The weeds are starting to get a foothold, just like the vegetables, and with the sunny weather we are having this week, everything should take off. Our garden is no longer all dirt, God’s masterpiece has begun again. Here is the tour.

Broccoli

Store bought cabbage

Green cabbage

Michilli cabbage


Cabbage leaf with green lacewing eggs mixed in bran sprinkled on it

And I have to tell you. I think the green lacewings eggs that I sprinkled on all of the garden plants are really making a difference. They are too small to see, but the directions said the evidence would be a decrease in insect damage to the plants, and I think that is the case. We just might have our first ever cabbage crop this year. I am very hopeful. I will do a more in depth article on my beneficial insect experiment later on.

The new Comfrey bed is doing great. I harvest here almost daily.
Cowpeas are trying to make an appearance

Okra does not like cool wet weather and is not very happy….yet

Cushaw squash with nasturtiums

Yellow squash with nasturtiums

The tomatoes got off to a hard start with lots of flea beetle holes. I think the green lacewings have made a difference there, too. But the tomatoes don’t like the cool, wet weather any more than the okra. It’s been in the 40’s the last few nights with highs in the 70’s. Today was the first day of sunshine in about a week.

One of the apple trees has a surprise this year for the first time

We each had a strawberry for breakfast this morning. The first of the year.

More on the way

The new strawberry bed is growing despite all of the slugs I pick here every morning.


We have beets planted in several places that are just starting to grow well.

The carrots are happy.

We’re trying collard greens for the first time.

Cucumbers are just getting started.

Onions are finally putting on some growth.

In just a few days, these turnips have just about doubled in size.

And the Clematis is just beautiful.

It won’t be long before the garden will be in full swing and need much more tending than it does right now. That means we need to get a few more projects completed while we still have a little more time. You know the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, with all of the April showers we’ve had, the wild and tame blackberries are blooming in profusion.

And the honeysuckle won’t be far behind. I pick it almost daily for the goats. It’s good for expelling worms.

We watch the garden grow with great anticipation for that first fresh squash, that first pan of turnip greens, that first red, ripe tomato and much, much more. So, tell me, how is your garden doing this year?

Today we drove about 100 miles to the east to visit one of Frank’s family, which took us through rural eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. We noticed along that way that there weren’t many gardens planted. This is sad. Why aren’t people raising their own food? Sad.

Until next time – Fern
 

Gardening Before it Rains….Again

I’m sorry we’ve been MIW (missing in writing) for the last few days. We’ve been working very hard on getting the garden planted before yet another round of rain comes through. It’s springtime in Oklahoma when we have a few days of rain, then a few days of semi dry, then a few days of rain, then a few days of sunshine. It is always a gamble when we will be able to get the garden planted. Well, we’ve had a few hot, sunny days that we took advantage of and did a lot of planting.

I’m going to treat you to some pictures of dirt. There are newly planted seeds hiding under all that dirt, so you will have to use your imagination for now. This is the beginning of the transformation of bare ground to overcrowded, abundantly (we hope) producing vegetables. Our friend Grace recently sent me an email that described her garden as an empty blank slate. That’s what most of ours looks like as well. But her comment got me to thinking, and my response to her was, “It’s waiting to become a master piece.” You know, that is what gardening is. Through the miracle of germination, photosynthesis and the blessing of rain, millions of tiny little seeds each year turn into an amazing abundance of food. I am always in awe of this yearly miracle.

Here is the garden tour for now. Since we increased the size of the garden by almost a third, I changed the garden plan quite a bit. The original plan is now quite scribbled on, but I know what it says, even if no one else can decipher it.

Remember when we told you that one end of the new garden piece kept breaking the tiller shear pin on the tractor? Well, Frank broke out the disc for the first time ever and broke new ground in one of our pastures, that we have called the garden pasture for many years. We have amended part of this pasture many times with gifts from the chicken house and the barn, so it is very fertile. This year is the year. We are going to plant this area with animal feed. It can also be people feed, but our goal is to decrease the amount of feed we purchase for our animals dramatically. Yea! Another dream come true, almost. Of course, we will have to fight some very vigorous weeds and briars, but I think we are up for the battle.

While Frank had the disc on, he also worked over the new part of the garden that the tiller couldn’t handle. There are some tremendous rocks down on one end of this area. It was so rocky, we couldn’t get the last t-post in for a trellis, so we pounded it in with the bucket on the tractor. But, this is what happened to the first one we tried. Now it looks like a boomerang and is useless as a t-post. After we moved down the row three times, we finally got the last one in.

Now for the dirt tour. Here is the trellis with the stubborn t-posts in the new area of the garden. We have planted pinto beans on both sides of the trellis. If the weather wasn’t trying to fire up with severe thunderstorms, we would also have planted two rows of cowpeas on each side of this trellis. We chose these crops for their ability to help enrich the soil, and for the food they can provide both us and the animals.

 Next up is one of the turnip patches that has been planted for a while. The seedlings are coming up, along with plenty of grass. As soon as the turnips are big enough, this will be one of the first places that needs weeding.

This next beautiful patch of dirt is planted with alternating rows of spinach, carrots, collards and beets. The blank area of dirt to the right is still empty. The pepper plants will go there, but for now, they are too small to set out. It will be a week or so before they are ready.

The trellis behind this patch in the middle of the row, is planted with cucumber seeds we saved year before last, and zinnias. And speaking of zinnias, they are liberally planted all over the garden, to discourage pest insects, and encourage predator insects.

The new strawberry bed is behind the cucumber trellis. These are the extra strawberries that had escaped the original bed and moved into the garden. They just got planted today and are ready for a drink. I am hoping the rain that is coming will do that for me. (It did.)

The permanent trellis against this building has hops and clematis growing on it. They are both doing very well this year.

If you use your imagination, you will be able to see some small hills in this area. This is where the Buttercup winter squash is planted. For the past two years we have planted our winter squash in July or so. This has not worked out at all, so I am planting it at the beginning of summer, just like our yellow squash. Not only will these be stored for our use, but they make great animal feed. We will be planting them up in the garden pasture as well. The small trellis to the right, by the building, is planted with pickling cucumbers. I plan to try my hand at fermented pickles this summer. If I understand it right, this will give us crunchy pickles, which we like, along with the benefits of fermentation.

The next trellis will support our Rutgers and Arkansas Traveler  tomatoes we grew from seed. Down both sides of the trellis carrot seedlings or seeds have been planted. It really is true that carrots love tomatoes. I have tried this for several years and they grow very well together.


 

On the other side of this trellis you may be able to see some more squash hills. This is where the straight neck yellow squash will grow. I have tried to separate the squashes simply to confuse the bugs. We are growing quite a bit of squash this year, but instead of putting them all together, I’m experimenting with alternating them with other crops. We’ll see how it goes.

Next is another trellis with pinto beans planted on both sides, with carrots planted down each side about 10 inches out from the beans. We are going to use immature pinto beans for green beans this year. A friend of ours told us about this practice. We can pick them young and can them as green beans, then when we have enough canned for the year, we will let the beans mature into pinto beans and can them as well. Kind of like a dual purpose bean. I will be very interested to see how this works out.

Our last type of squash is planted next to this bean trellis, which is a Cushaw winter squash. I planted the seeds we saved from one of our few mature squash from last summer. We hope they are viable and will produce a good crop.

The next area is another experimental area. I planted two rows of okra with a row of cow peas on either side. Last summer I was surprised at how long and vine like the cowpeas grew. This year we are going to see if the cow peas will grow up the okra plants.

The other end of the new portion of the garden is planted in a similar fashion. We put one row of okra down the center with cowpeas on either side. Then we filled up the rest of the bed with three rows of peanuts on either side. The okra will not improve the soil, but the cowpeas and peanuts will.

Next to the okra/cowpea area in the garden is the portion that was planted previously and we have already shown you. The onions are starting to grow, kind of. The broccoli, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage and beets are growing well. 



Beets
Broccoli
Chinese cabbage

Cabbage

  

 

I planted the new comfrey roots over in this corner. I originally planned to spread them into a larger space, but they were outgrowing their tubs and it will still be a while before the rest of the area is ready to plant.

The salad fixings I planted in front of the herb bed are doing okay. I will be giving them some of the manure tea and whey sometime in the next few days. 

Kohlrabi
Lettuce

Lettuce
Lettuce
Spinach
Swiss Chard

The turnip patch by the herb bed is doing very well. It will be time to thin the plants and pull some weeds before long.

So there you have it, our garden of mostly dirt, for this year. I still need to plant the peppers when they are big enough, put the cowpeas into the stubborn end of the new bed, plant a few more onions, and figure out what I want to put in an empty portion of the new bed in front of the herb bed. And then there is the new garden in the pasture to play with. This is our blank slate awaiting to become a master piece.


I hope spring is treating you well, and you are able to make a dream or two come true in your life. It usually takes a lot of work to realize a dream, but it is well worth the effort.

Until next time – Fern

A Strawberry Scarecrow & Sweet Potatoes

Last year the birds discovered our new strawberry bed and ate the one or two berries we let grow. It was easy for them to sit on the fence to select the next course for their meal. Now that we have some berries growing, it’s time to see if we can deter the birds. I don’t usually buy whirly-gig things for decoration, but I actually like this one and it has marbles. It even comes with a few extras just in case I ‘lose my marbles’, which I have been known to do from time to time.

I have heard of people using old CD’s, no not certificates of deposit, which are losing value quickly these days, but computer CD’s. Except for buying the occasional computer program or music CD, most people don’t use these anymore. With the advent of flashdrives and direct downloads from the internet, CD’s have quickly become obsolete. Well, we have a spool of unused CD’s that have been sitting around for a number of years, so I thought now I could put them to good use. All I need is a couple of old socks and some fishing line.

I wanted the socks to protect the cherry trees I am using for end posts. I figure if I hang the CD’s across the strawberry bed, it will keep the birds away…..maybe. It’s worth a try anyway. First I cut the toe off the sock, then cut it down the whole length. This way I can wrap it around the fishing line several times for cushioning. 

Then I wrapped the sock/line around each tree and tied it off, creating a kind of clothes line effect. This will easily hold the weight of the CD’s, but hopefully not the weight of a bird.

 
From here I tied a line to the CD’s using the hole in the middle. I thought about drilling a hole by the edge of each one, but then I thought the more wobbly the better. They still twirl about in the wind, which I hope will keep the birds away.

I tried to keep them up high enough that they won’t be in my way when I want to work in the bed, but low enough to deter birds. We will see if it works.

 
Next, I wanted to plant a few sweet potatoes. We grew a nice patch of sweet potatoes last year, but then found out we really don’t eat very many. I also agree with some other folks recommendations that it is better not to let them vine out all over, like I did, because then you have small potatoes everywhere the vine goes, and that’s a lot of digging.


So this year I am planting a few of our potatoes from last year that have sprouted in these large wooden planters. I think it will look nice, since sweet potatoes have beautiful vines. Then at the end of the summer, I can harvest the potatoes right out of the pots. It also gives us more room in the garden for other things.

The growing season is upon us and everything is green and lush. We’re getting plenty of rain to get everything off to a great start and school is almost out. Things are heating up all over the world, regardless of the season. Keep your eyes open, stay alert, and evaluate the information that is out there for yourself. Don’t take the words of the talking heads at face value. How will you get information when the talking heads are gone? Make sure you have your radio communications in order. The seasons of our world are changing and we will have to adapt, one way or another. Be ready.

Until next time – Fern

Late Frosts & Working In The Garden

At this stage in the garden, I always want everything to be a little farther along, but it’s not. We had two very late frosts this year on the nights of April 30th and May 1st. Neither one was a hard frost, but it was cold enough to put frost on the windshield of the car, so we wanted to protect the tender garden plants. As the dusk was falling, I got the last of the plants covered with a layer of hay for protection. This was at the end of a long busy day, so there were no pictures of this project. 

I left the hay over the plants for two nights. Now it’s time to uncover everything and see how they fared in the cold weather. I wanted to find a way to do this without a great deal of stooping over, so I decided to try out a new tool that we have had for a while, but I have never used. I thought maybe I could use this three tine cultivator to gently lift the hay off of the plants without damaging them. It worked great and saved my back a lot of bending and stooping.

 I had kind of built a tent of hay over the green beans since they were getting fairly tall. I accidentally bent several of them over too far, but most of them look great. While I was uncovering them I realized that all of this hay I had put out could be moved just to the side of the plants and used for mulch. That wasn’t my plan originally, but now using the hay to protect from frost is turning into the added benefit of mulch, which is an unplanned bonus.

 The cow peas, which are purple hulls, were just starting to come up good when the cold weather was forecast. They didn’t mind being covered at all and are looking nice and healthy. We planted more than twice the amount we had last year to provide food for us, and to supplement the feed for the goats and the chickens.

 The squash is growing very well and a few of the leaves had already started poking through the hay by the time I got them uncovered.

The okra was just barely breaking through the soil when I covered them. Some of them look pretty pale and others already have two nice green leaves.

  

The tomatoes were about the same. Some looked a little pale, and none of them are really showing signs of growth yet. I know they didn’t appreciate the cold weather.

The peppers are sharing the same sentiments as the tomatoes. They’re all alive, but are still pretty small.

The peas are finally growing quite a bit, but still haven’t started blooming. I’m beginning to wonder if they will bloom at all.
 

The carrots are happy and growing right along. This trellis is home to the peas on one side and the tomatoes on the other. I planted the carrots on the east side so they would get morning sun, but be shaded from the hotter western sun in the afternoon. I also tucked the pepper in to the east of this trellis. I’m not sure how well they will like this location, so we will see.

 

The corn is just beginning to come up and is still quite small. I used my cultivator to get rid of some of the grass coming up between the rows. I will let it get about six inches tall, then mulch between the rows to keep the weeds down. That should take care of it for the rest of the summer.

The cucumbers are growing very well on the east side of this building.

  

The cabbage, broccoli, beets and onions are doing very well. I need to do some more weeding and then they will all get mulched.

The potatoes are growing great again after the foliage was killed by a harder frost a few weeks ago. The grass and weeds are giving them a lot of competition, so they are in need of some attention. Hopefully, I can get to that sometime this week, then I will hill them up again.

There are two spinach plants doing well in the strawberry bed. The others didn’t make it. I don’t know if they were eaten or just died, but I am glad to have a few plants we will be able to harvest.

Our new food crops are hopefully on the way to producing this year’s harvest for us. There are always different challenges each year that give us the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. We know you can never learn too much and will continue learning every day as if our lives depend upon it. Because it does. 

Until next time – Fern

Reclaiming the Strawberry Bed

Last summer we started a new strawberry bed. As you can see, we grew a lot of grass and weeds along with a few strawberries. 

The bed was started in a brand new place. We laid down sheets of brown paper, the kind painters use to protect windows or floors, and covered it with pine needle mulch, since berries and fruit like acidic soil. 

Some nice, friendly armadillo dug around in the bed, tearing the paper in many places allowing the grass and weeds an avenue to grow. With gardening season keeping us busy, we didn’t weed or tend to the strawberry bed much and it became very overgrown during the course of the summer.

Well, now that spring is upon us again, I found a good sale on strawberries and ordered 25 plants. In the meantime, I explored the strawberry bed and discovered that more of the plants made it through the weeds and winter than I expected. I just needed to uncover them and see how much of the grass and weeds I could remove to reclaim the bed. I pulled back the dead weeds and grass along with a nice layer of oak leaves from the large tree by the house.

 

Then I used a shovel to loosen all of the bare areas and make it easier to pull the grass out. After pulling up as much grass as I could, it rained so I had to wait a few days to get back to it.

I loosened the soil again with my hoe, then started planting my new plants.

I found some blooms on a few of the old plants. Maybe we will have a few berries to eat this summer. 

Now that the new plants are in, I want to mulch the bed again to try to keep the grass and weeds down. 
 

This time, I took thick layers of newspapers and tucked them in all around the plants with an extra thick layer up against the fence. 

 

I covered all of this will another layer of pine needles that I raked up in the yard. It’s nice of these trees to drop another layer of mulch for me each year. This wagon full of pine needles didn’t even make a noticeable dent in the layer of needles under these trees.
 

To try to ward off the armadillos, I have spread around some dog hair from Pearl’s last haircut. Maybe this will convince the them to go root around somewhere else.

It looks much better, doesn’t it? Even though I don’t have the whole bed mulched and finished off yet, it feels good to have this project up an running once again. Who knows, we may even get something to eat out of the deal. This is another possible source of perennial fruit that could add a few more handfuls of food each year to our diet. Besides planting, harvesting and preserving our garden each year, I am trying to establish some perennial sources of food that will stretch our food supply just a little bit farther. I pray we don’t have to depend upon what we can produce, even though it looks like we may have to more and more with each passing day. What do you have growing?

Until next time – Fern