Our Normal Abnormal Life

In many ways, our life hasn’t changed much. We milk goats, make cheese, plant the garden, eat at home and don’t socialize. This is pretty normal for us. Now that I cannot visit my Mom in the nursing home except through the closed, glass door, which we did for the first time today, we seldom go anywhere. While we were in town today we went to the store. Frank stayed in the vehicle while I went in to get apples. I wore gloves and cleaned my hands with an alcohol soaked wash cloth when I was finished. I took note of some of the store shelves while I was in there. The produce section was fully stocked. There was very little pasta, no spaghetti sauce in jars or cans, and only a few cans of spaghetti-o kinds of foods. There were no dried beans or flour of any kind. Many of the canned vegetables were sparse. I didn’t go down any other isles, so that is my report for the grocery store today. It is a smaller, local grocery, not the Wal-Mart type.

A few weeks ago we stocked up on animal feed, filling every container we have to the brim. That will last us well into summer if not beyond. We stocked up on fresh apples and cabbage, too, but that’s about the only store bought items we wanted/needed. The new air lock version of making sauerkraut has taken a backseat to the fermenting crock again for now. Even though it will take us months to eat the full crock that is percolating away at the moment, that’s okay. It’s nice to know we have months of nutritious, probiotic kraut awaiting our dietary needs.

Most of our routines haven’t changed, so here is a pictorial of some of the things we’re doing during this normal/abnormal life. We’re still making cheese and sourdough bread, although we have started making tortillas out of most of the bread dough, just because we like them. We eat them fresh everyday with a little butter and salt. The dough freezes and stores well in the frig, so I can take out what I need for each day, let it come to room temperature on the cabinet, then cook them when we are ready to eat. If we do happen to experience a collapse, making small, daily batches of dough for fresh tortillas will be easier than trying to bake bread or rolls. Just a thought I have had when we transitioned to making daily tortillas.

Bread dough in the bowl, cheddar cheese in the stock pots

Some of the seedlings are now in the garden. If we get a frost, we’ll need to cover the tomatoes and squash. 

Seedlings hardening off from the greenhouse
Tomato seedlings

The large tomato that grew in the greenhouse over the winter.

Whey from cheese making to water in the tomato seedlings.

Tomato seedlings

Carrots
Yellow squash

It’s been very wet and muddy for about a month now.

This week we had record high temperatures in the 90’s. This weekend we will probably have a frost. It reminds me of the challenges farmers are having with the food supply and the issues with the solar minimum and how it affects weather extremes. The Ice Age Farmer is listed on our blog roll. He has some interesting things about the solar cycle and food supply. The pepper and beet seedlings will have to wait for the frost to pass to be planted.
 

Peppers
Beets on my planting wagon.


We thought a few more hoses were in order.


Frank used a garden hose to fill our storage tank from the water well by the greenhouse. We can use it for the garden or drinking water if necessary.

The world? Our country? Outside of the virus, the economy is on the verge of imploding. The effects of the virus don’t appear to be near as devastating as the hysteria and overreach of the government indicates it was ‘supposed’ to be. There is some underlying sinister plot in play that hasn’t raised it’s ugly head into the light of day yet. When it does, I don’t know if it will have the ugly head of a fire breathing dragon or the boot of the man upon our throats. It is difficult to find any clues or facts (how to know what is true or not is impossible anymore) that lead to any logical conclusions at all.

And then there are the ‘essential workers’ that have received their “papers” for safe travel to and from work. When I hear the term “Papers, please.” it makes me think of a World War with major restrictions and controls upon the activities of societies across the globe. We know a man that received his “papers” a few weeks ago indicating he works in an essential industry, then received a comment recently with the same scenario. Is there a time coming when all travel will be restricted without official “papers”?

Phone apps are being developed to track people that have been infected, are suspected of being infected, have been vaccinated (once it becomes available) or haven’t, and probably who is using all of that ‘dirty’ germ laden money. With many, many people staying home or drastically restricting their travel voluntarily due to fear, those that are out and about will be easier to track. Why is this really desirable? I don’t really think it has anything to do with a disease.

So, we will continue to stay home, order a few things online to be delivered and continue our normal/abnormal life. There are times when the vision of what we see coming down the road is almost paralyzing. Other times, we continue our daily routine, just like any other spring, only with the feeling we need to keep an eye out over our shoulder for that sinister overshadowing that creeps ever closer. We used to say the storm is coming, get prepared. Now? The storm is here and it’s too late.

We would really like to hear what you think and what is happening in your area. When it rains, it rains on all of us. We are all in this together. Speak up now while you still can. You never know when something you say may help another.

Until next time – Fern
 

Without Food, You Are Dead

Everyone needs to read the opening dialogue from Ol’ Remus at the Woodpile Report this week. He’s right. Food is a Weapon that can, has been and will be used against you. There is a reason Bison Prepper is always writing about food first, wheat, calories, wheat, wheat, wheat. Without food, you are dead. End of story. Not to mention the disease and debilitation that comes from malnutrition and starvation. 

I’ve been thinking about sharing our fall/winter growing plans for a while and the thoughts from Ol’ Remus decided for me that today, I had better get with it. We are working on putting most of the garden to bed for the winter. We’re in the process of taking down the tomato/pepper/green bean trellises. After they are out of the way Frank will brush hog all of

the plants, including the okra forest, into a type of organic mulch.

Then we’ll clean out the chicken house and barn and add that to the garden and till everything in for the winter. If the weather isn’t too cold by that time, it usually isn’t in our latitude, we will broadcast some winter peas for an edible cover crop. It’s good for man and beast.

 
This is the plan for most of the garden anyway. The two ends, east and west are planted with a few more food crops. Not to mention these volunteer squash plants that came up in the yard close to the compost pile. We’re enjoying a few last meals of squash. The first frost we had, we covered these plants with a frost cloth which prevented death, but did not keep the plants damage free. We’ll be covering them again this weekend to see if we can get a few more meals before winter takes it’s toll.

We have a small patch of turnips planted for greens. These are seeds we saved this spring from the turnips we planted last fall. It seems to be a good cycle to get into. We were also able eat fresh greens well into winter, again in the spring and even canned a few jars in June. Our permanent turnip bed idea didn’t work out, so maybe this cycle is a better alternative.

On the other end of the garden we have planted some beets for canning, if they make it that far. 

Some carrots for winter eating.  
 

And some cabbage. We still have some frozen, shredded cabbage we grew in the spring of 2018 that we are using in soup. It’s a great addition. If these cabbages make, I’m hoping we won’t have insect problems this time of year, we’ll eat some fresh and freeze the rest to continue our soup making routine.

 

This small bed on the east side of the house is the only place I have successfully grown spinach. We have had our first salad with miniature spinach and lettuce leaves. I was too impatient to let them grow any bigger before we had our first taste.

In the greenhouse we have started our winter salad collection.

We have two kinds of lettuce. Romaine

Black Seeded Simpson

Russian Kale

Pak Choy from seeds we saved this spring.

Cress

I have also planted a tub of amaranth since it is supposed to be good in salads and we know it’s packed with nutrition.

Even though I don’t expect success, I planted some of the tomato seeds we saved this summer. I wanted to make sure they were viable and wanted to try one more time for winter greenhouse tomatoes.

On a whim back in the spring I bought a six pack of sweet potato plants, put them in some rather rocky ground under a trellis, and pretty much ignored them. They made a few potatoes, more than I expected. We’ll try one for supper tonight with some of those turnip greens we canned in June.

I tried keeping the vines when we dug the potatoes and planted them in a pot in the greenhouse to see if we can use this for our plants in the spring. I don’t know if they will make it when the weather gets cold. We’ll find out.

This is the first year we have had anything close to an apple harvest from the two trees we planted about eight years ago. The apples are good, not too sweet, but homegrown which means a lot to us. We have one with lunch almost everyday. 

 

So, food. What do you have? Is it enough for everyone you need to feed? For a while? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Can you replenish the supply on your own without any outside assistance? 

Food has always been used to control people. Always. Think of Joseph in Egypt. His father and brothers had to come and beg for food. They had the money to pay for it, but that didn’t mean they would receive any. It’s no different today. Look around the world. Look at how interdependent everyone is. Some countries have oil. Some have water. Some have the type of land and soil that will grow food, some don’t. If any one thing goes wrong, one spoke of the wheel breaks, all systems fail. No water, no food. No oil, no fertilizer, no commercial farming apparatus, no food. No transportation, food rots in the field. No workers, no food. 

Food can and will be used against you as a means of enforcing your compliance to any and all demands. Moral, immoral, just and unjust. Be ready. Provide for yourself and those you love. Otherwise……. 

Without food, you, and everyone you love, are dead.

Until next time – Fern
 

Food on the Shelf

Here is what we’ve been up to – adding food to the shelf. We have plans for more to come including cowpeas, chili, tomatoes, tomato sauce, green beans, sunflowers and amaranth. Not everything will end up in jars, but will be on the shelf in some fashion. Food. The essence of life.

Carrots

Beets

These are the best tasting beets we have ever grown.

Green beans – a basic staple

Winnowing amaranth
Amaranth for our bread

Thelma Sanders winter squash

Winter squash and pinto bean harvest

Communication is always essential.
Our first apple crop. These are wind falls.

The tomatoes are being frozen for future canning.
The more food we put on the shelf, the more content we feel about feeding ourselves for a few more months. That’s a great feeling. Enjoy your harvest, whether it be a garden or a grocery store. 
Stay vigilant. Stay away from crowds. Be ready for anything, it just feels near.
Until next time – Fern

What’s Growin’ in the Garden 2

Interesting that I was thinking of doing a garden update today since we had rain forecast. I have some pictures from May 25th and was going to add a few more today. Well, it is raining. We had and inch of rain in five minutes, then ended up with 2″ in about 30 minutes and it arrived with 25MPH winds. Here are some pictures from the porch.

Our creek has extended into the backyard.

North side of the house, water running, now the corn is facing west laying over.

Our new creek through the turnip bed.

Lots of water – this is normally dry

I won’t know if there is any permanent damage for a few days and will let you know about that in the next update. Message for me – always plan for the unexpected. Always…..always.

Here are a few comparisons from the last article. Then pictures and comments about what’s growing out there – or was – or maybe is still growing. Time will tell.
 

April 22nd

May 25th

We are still using coffee grounds for acidity around some plants, these were for the blueberries. The eggs shells have made their way around the base of all squashes and tomatoes, so these were given to the peppers.

 

 

Pinto beans

The pinto beans are doing well and I have learned something. They vine like pole beans. I thought they were a bush bean, but they look just like the Missouri Wonders, except they don’t have a trellis to grow on. Another thing we’ve noticed is that some of them appear to have the same type of curly top problem some of the tomatoes have. Because of that I think the person that commented about the soil being too fertile is probably right. Some of the beans look great and some of them are wrinkled up. Another good learning experience.



Missouri Wonder green beans next to the pinto beans


While we are in this corner of the garden, here are the two apple trees. In the past we have harvested about 20 apples altogether in the seven or eight years these trees have been here. This year there are many apples. We hope they remain on the trees long enough to ripen and harvest. I’m wondering if I will have enough to can a few which leads me to pondering the best way to do that without any added sugar or other ingredients. Any ideas?

Comfrey by the apples. The chickens get a handful each morning.

Sunflowers are planted at the end of each trellis and here and there in a couple of other places.

 I told you about the potatoes Frank bought for me in the last article. Well, right after we planted them it rained and rained and rained. Four plants survived the wet soil. They look healthy and vigorous, though, so we will see what kind of harvest we get.


We have had a few meals of the first small yellow crook neck squash. There is nothing like those first few meals, they always taste so good. Soon we will be overrun with too many, but that’s not such a bad problem to have. We can always share with the chickens. We lost a few winter squash and one yellow squash plant to vine borers before I got the wood ashes around the base of the plants. I’ll put some more out after this rainy week passes.


The carrots, and all of the surrounding weeds and crabgrass, are doing very well. I started the carrot seedlings in pot makers again this year which makes all the difference. They get a good head start and produce much better than direct seeding.

 

Our winter squash this year is Thelma Sanders which is a type of acorn squash, along with some seeds we saved last year. They are a mixture of five different winter squashes we grew last summer. We’ll see what they produce.

 

There are a few pots of nasturtiums, marjoram and basil here and there throughout the garden.

 
The Japanese beetles really like the amaranth. Even so, it is growing well.

 The beets are doing well this year due to being seedlings in pot makers just like the carrots. I hope to can some this year.

The okra has not liked the cool, rainy weather. It is very slowly coming along.

The corn is doing okay. The 2008 Painted Mountain seed germinated very well, much to our surprise. It has tasseled first when the open pollinated sweet corn has barely begun. We hoped to cross pollinate them, but that won’t be happening since the timing is off. And now, after the rain and wind, we’ll have to see if any makes at all.

 


Our experimental patch of sorghum is coming up. It will be very interesting to see how it does, along with the amaranth. We’re curious about the harvest, the labor involved and how we can add these to our diet. Learning, just can’t do without it. There is always something to learn.

That small patch of dirt back there is the sorghum.

 

I planted some lettuce in pots on the porch to see if we can have some through most of the summer. Another experiment. This pot has a marigold coming up in it along with the Romaine.

What is surprising is how much the garden has grown in the last week since these pictures were taken. We’ve had sunshine and many things are really taking off. I realized when looking through these pictures that there aren’t any of the tomatoes, but they’re out there, along both sides of the carrots.
 
Well, that’s it for now. We hear thunder not too far off and there is more rain on the way. Just hope it doesn’t have any hail or high winds with it this time.

How are things growing in your neck of the woods?

Until next time – Fern

P.S. We have a question. Do any of you have experience with a corded electric tiller? We are reviewing this one. Please tell us what you think or if you have other recommendations. I have a Mantis and it works fine, but it just won’t till. It is a cultivator, not a tiller. I need something vastly smaller than the tractor with the tiller attachment to help take care of some of these weeds. Please tell us what you think. Your thoughts are appreciated.

What’s Growin’ in the Garden 1

Frank had a good idea earlier in the year. We’re going to be showing a time lapse of the garden growth as the season goes along. Harvests and production rates will be noted as well as any difficulties we encounter along the way. In the long run, this will probably be more useful to us, but we hope you find something of interest along the way.

Last year we had a real problem with mosaic virus. Not only did it affect our green beans and Jacob’s Cattle beans (a shell variety like pintos), it affected the tomatoes as well. Not in time to affect last year’s growth and harvest, but hopefully to have a good impact for this year, we applied nematodes. Lots of them. Aribco Organics is a place I have found for beneficial insects. We applied nematodes from them about four or five years ago for slugs and it worked great, I rarely see a slug

in the garden. Well, last year we also started a strawberry bed that seemed to be doing well until later in the season when some of the plants started having brown leaves and dying. The only thing I could find in any of my books was a type of virus and the recommendation was to kill all the plants and move the bed somewhere else. We didn’t want to do that, so they got a healthy dose of nematodes as well. The three pack of various nematodes affects a wide variety of garden pests, so that is what we used. It takes a while for the nematodes to multiply and affect the health of the soil, so we’ll see how it goes. Nematodes are a natural part of the soil which will continue reproduce and become part of the soil as long as nothing comes along to affect the population. There are beneficial and ‘pest’ nematodes that can help or hurt the growth of garden plants.

March 31st

Winter spinach in the back porch bed

Freshly tilled dirt

April 10th
Time to clear some brush from the fence row

Apple blossoms

Turnips blooming and going to seed after spending the winter in the garden
April 12th

Brush removed, tilling complete

Trellises in place for tomatoes, beans and peppers

April 19th
Tomatoes by the trellis, pots of basil, carrots down the middle

Mostly dirt, but lots of potential!
April 22nd

The corn is peaking out.

It’s all planted. Whew! The greenhouse is now empty and in need of a good cleaning. We’ve planted around rain showers and muddy ground. Luckily, we’ve had some pretty windy weather in between that has allowed us to keep planting. I could keep adding more and more pictures and updates, but I’ll take up here with the next garden edition.

Now, we wait. As always we hope to have abundant harvests with lots to eat fresh and even more to put in jars on the shelf. As of today the plantings have included: corn, okra, Thelma Sanders and Cushaw winter squashes, amaranth, beets, tomatoes, carrots, basil, zinnas, nasturtiums, yellow squash, pole green beans, peppers – sweet, bell, banana, jalapeno and our cross pollinated surprise peppers, sunflowers, pinto beans, lettuce, cress, turnips and swiss chard. I think that’s everything.

The strawberries are blooming and have lots of green berries. We hope they continue through the season.

Has anyone grown amaranth? If so, any pointers? We hope to be able to harvest leaves and grain. Another new adventure in gardening and nutrition.

How are things growing in your neck of the woods? We hope your harvest is abundant and your shelves are blessed with many jars.

Until next time – Fern

P.S. Frank bought me a surprise bag of red potatoes yesterday to plant. We had planned on picking up some seed potatoes at the feed store a while back but never made it. The potatoes we saved from last year sprouted a long time ago. They look like some extreme, wild hairdo with long straggly sprouts. Frank was at the store yesterday while I was visiting my mom at the nursing home and spied a bag of red potatoes with lots of eyes. Thus, my surprise. 

After the rain showers pass in a few days, we will have one more addition to squeeze in out there. We plan out our garden with annual maps for rotation and companion planting. After the potato surprise yesterday I got out the map and my Tomatoes Love Carrots book to check for companion placement for the new addition. It’s already pretty crowded out there, but we have a place to squeeze them in. If you looked at the garden now, you might not consider all of that dirt crowded. Just wait about a month or two and you’ll wonder where we walk to harvest and get around.

Some wives want flowers, I wanted potatoes to plant. It’s a great life!
 


Homestead News, Volume 20

We just got back from Frank’s checkup, his second cataract surgery was yesterday and everything is going well. He has some physical limitations for a few more days, so we’ll be taking it easy. It’s supposed to rain over the weekend too, so another reason for a slow couple of days.

We have added the last of the fertilizer from the chicken house to the garden and tilled it again. Planting will begin sometime next week, weather and mud will help determine the timing. This year will be one of the latest starts on planting the garden. We didn’t put in any cold weather crops this spring, they just haven’t produced well for us, so we didn’t expend the time and effort. We decided to try some time lapse photos of the garden through the season, so here is step one. Dirt.

The seedlings are doing well in the greenhouse, all except the carrots who are suffering from a case of aphids. They moved outside and have been through a few frosty mornings. Maybe that killed off a few of the little buggers.

Beets

Tomatoes

Peppers with basil in the middle smaller pots

Tubs of lettuce, almost ready for lunch

Carrots outside
Nasturtiums

Part of the bed out back, sometimes known as the herb bed, will be used for the perpetual turnip bed. I started to do an article on the nutrition of turnips and turnip greens since we had a lot of interest in them recently, but then realized I had already written one. 

We have simplified the goat herd, quite a bit actually. We had 14 baby goats this year. It’s always easy to keep a few young does, they’re young, cute and have potential to be good does. At first we were going to keep one, then two, then three. What did we end up with? None. And that was a good decision. We also sold three adult does. What do we have left? One Stripe, our 11 year old, ‘old lady goat’ that is no longer a producer. 

Her four year old daughter Patch that had a serious illness with a retained placenta this year that led to mastitis on one side of her udder. Her six year old sister Copper, who we sold, help raise her triplets along with her own. Patch is still losing hair in some places and I’m still working on her udder, but her health appears to be much better. I’m actually hoping she goes into heat and breeds, then maybe her udder will function on both sides and she can provide us with milk this coming winter.

Two of our young does had their first kids this year and are doing well on the milk stand. I’ll write a Goat Tail sometime soon and give you more details on their progress.

Our chicks have hatched and more arrived in the mail, but that tale will wait for one of Frank’s chicken stories.

It’s spring, almost time to mow the yard, rains are here and the temperatures are rising. What’s not to like about spring? Unfortunately, the temperatures appear to be rising in more ways than one across our country. There are those in power that will never cease fomenting hatred and unrest in our country. They care not one wit for your welfare, well being or contentment with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They will never be satisfied. Ever. Until everything is either under their boot or destroyed down to the last man, woman and child.

I relish the sunshine, the awakening of spring and the quiet solitude of our rural, country life. But I am not unrealistic about how quickly the peace can be shattered in an explosion of violence and hatred. Even here. Do not be led to believe that all is well in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is not. Do what you can in whatever environment you find yourself in, there are always opportunities available.

Until next time – Fern
 

Simple Meals

We have found our meals getting smaller and simpler as time goes by. Part of that is age, we just can’t eat as much as we used to and we don’t need to because we burn fewer calories, otherwise it is a matter of choice. I have found myself using fewer ingredients and trying to incorporate what we grow or store in almost all of our meals. We buy some things – olive oil, apples, carrots, onions, cabbage, occasional eggs, milk when the goats are dry. We buy wheat, oats and flax in bulk buckets. But there’s not really much else we buy. Coffee, we definitely buy coffee, for we are daily coffee drinkers. 

After I thought about it a while I realized that if we do experience a collapse, everyone will be eating much simpler meals made out of what is on hand. So our advice is to have on hand what you want to and can eat. Some folks have dietary restrictions because of their health, that is something to plan ahead for. Part of what we eat is to keep our bodies regular and provide adequate energy and nutrition. We have found that most people find our meals lacking enough items, ingredients or flavor, and that’s okay. We truly believe everyone should have the freedom to choose, whether it is meals, location, weapons, vehicles or religion. This is the way we choose.

Here are a few of the meals we eat regularly. Sometimes they are like this, sometimes there are variations of the same theme. I didn’t take a picture, but the other day we had a quarter pound ground pork burger on one of our sourdough buns with a slice of onion. Frank has mayonnaise and I have mustard. The side dish was a bowl of turnip greens. Different? Probably. Good? We like it.

 
Ground pork from the pigs that are no longer with us, eggs and salsa we canned last summer.

 

Okra we grew last summer and froze whole after washing. We slice and saute it in olive oil with salt and pepper. The purple hull peas were grown and canned in 2017.

 
Spam and cabbage, both store bought. Yes, Spam. We consider it part of our meat food storage and keep a good quantity on the shelf. We buy a head of cabbage about once a month and eat on it until it’s gone, usually over three or four meals.

We eat greens regularly and keep a good stock on the shelf. We prefer our own turnip greens, but have others just in case we need or want them. We had quite a few comments and questions about turnip greens recently, so I was going to do an article about the nutritional benefits until I realized I had already done one. You can find it here, The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens. What we do differently now than when we wrote the previous article, is a serving of greens is simply water, salt and greens. We drink the water after eating the greens for the nutrients it contains.

Soup. Frozen tomatoes, cowpeas, cabbage and peppers. Canned green beans and squash. Ground pork, carrots, onions.

We are slowly using up some of the things we froze last summer. This batch of soup provides us four meals, some we eat fresh and some we freeze for later.
 

We have made a number of variations of the meat pie.

This version is made with our canned chicken, salsa, frozen peppers, cheddar, sourdough starter and store bought onions. It’s okay, but we like it better with ground pork instead of chicken.


This meals takes little effort at this point. Turnip greens and Jacob’s cattle beans. The tape measure was part of Frank’s meal, um….. humor…. for this picture. Does this food taste wonderful? No, not really. We eat it for the nutrition and the taste is okay, but nothing great.

 

 

Think about simple. Think about how your meals would change if the SHTF. How would your diet change? What choices would you have? Are you used to eating what you would then be forced to eat? Would it make you sick? Can you afford to be sick in that situation?

Our diet is the way it is by choice. We like it that way. It’s interesting to think it may benefit us if the world continues to spiral down into the abyss we seem to be forced to march a little closer to everyday. Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

Until next time – Fern