We are back in VA and our homestead. It’s been a busy time for us, moving to and back from Texas was quite an experience and we are so happy to be back at our homestead.
It was good to see the old place again, but, oh my, so much work was waiting for our return. The grass had grown so high! It’s taken weeks for me to finally get it almost all cut with my just riding mower, but there are just a few more acres to get under control before I can rest for the winter.
We have also broken ground for our new kitchen garden and put up a fence around the 50’x50′ area. The ground had never been tilled and was very compacted. Using a shovel was out of the question so we needed to buy a roto-tiller which struggled but did the job of loosening the soil.
The soil is awful. No visible signs of life except for the weeds. Our next task is to plant ground cover to start the process of building soil by planting winter rye, crimson clover and field peas.
In addition to the garden, we will be seeding another half acre with the ground cover in hopes of creating an organic market garden in order to help make the homestead self-sufficient.
Out buildings are in need repair, and we want to build a barn, greenhouse and chicken tractors. We are looking forward to restarting our chicken flock in the spring, as well as getting ducks, geese and a couple pigs.
The homestead is totally off-grid. There is a shallow well and a small pond which we hope to enlarge. Also on the to do list is creating a rainwater capture system.
I don’t know how long it will take to check off everything on the to-do list and I can envision how it will look, beautiful.
This year has been very busy for us. The year started out with us relocating to Texas where we will be living for one year. Moving away from our farm to a tiny house lot in a Dallas suburb is a major change for us and although small changes make life more interesting I am eager for the time we can return to the farm.
Meanwhile I am trying to make the best of this new home with the tiny yard. The challenge was in creating a garden that would not require digging up the home-owners property.
To accomplish the task I bought large bags of potting mix and laid them in a long row along the backyard fence. To help keep the soil from drying out quickly in the Texas heat I cut openings in each bag only large enough to accommodate each plant and also a small opening in the center of each bag for watering. Two large plants such as summer squash, peppers, and tomato do quite well in one bag. I cut an opening of about 4″ square for each plant.
For the cucumbers I laid out two bags and cut little square holes of about 2″ each and a few inches apart and close to one side edge of the bag into which I planted seeds. This leaves enough space along the opposite edge to plant something else such as lettuce or spinach.
There is no denying this little garden is a bit costly, but at least I have the satisfaction of growing some of my favorite veggies
Soon we our pigs will be going to the butcher and it will be time for making sausage and ground pork as well as grinding lots of fat for making lard and soap.
For years the grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer was sufficient for processing the small amounts of food that needed grinding. But it is woefully inefficient for doing big jobs….and not-so-big jobs.
Recently when I used it for grinding only four pounds of meat it moaned and became quite warm. This would never do for upcoming tasks.
After hours of on-line searching and reading what seemed like hundreds of reviews, I purchased the Weston s-1500 Heavy Duty Grinder for less than I had paid for the KA attachment.
One glance at the hopper/grinder parts gives a first look of the quality of each product.The KitchenAid attachment is mostly plastic and comes with two grinding plates. Both come with a sausage stuffer.
When using the attachments, the mixer continues to run as well, as well as taking up lots of counter space and being quite loud. I have two different sized KA mixers and when using the attachment there is no discernible difference making one better than the other.
The Weston is all metal, and comes with three grinding plates. The motor housing footprint similar to the KA and about half the height, the power cord is stored inside the bottom of the unit, and the noise is no more than that of the KA and the entire weighs much less than the KA.
The price of the Weston, which included an additional 2 year warranty and free Fed-Ex shipping was $100.
Although the KitchenAid attachment costs about $30-$40 you must either already own the mixer or buy one for at least $250 and probably more.
Both machines are good, and do the job. When the time comes to put it to the test in a few weeks I will re-visit this review.
Soon our bare-root trees will be delivered and we will be busy planting a test orchard, and several flowering trees and bushes. The orchard will have apples and peaches, and cherries. We will also be planting forsythia and lilacs, one red maple and ten flowering trees.
I ordered the trees from the Arbor Day foundation who provide a list of the best trees to plant according to your zip code/growing zone and don’t ship until the best time of year for your zone. Our best planting time is late Oct-early Nov.
With membership come discount prices, and free trees, free shipping and guarantee to grow. This week will be when we beginning preparing for the plantings by deciding where each tree will be planted, and where we plant the orchard. I have two sites selected where I think the orchard will thrive.
The orchard: 2 Montmorency Cherry trees, 2 Belle of Georgia Peach trees, 3 Red Jonathan apples, 2 Early Harvest apples, and 1 Lodi apple. The apple trees are all semi-dwarf.
This new start on the farm is very welcomed following a very frustrating year.
2018 has been difficult on the homestead. Predators, mostly neighboring hunting dogs, have decimated our flock of chickens, again. In total they have killed nearly 100 of our chickens despite our attempts at fortifing their run. The last time they attacked, they had to tear through three fences to get to the chickens.
I am planning to buy solar powered fencing for next year’s flock of Bressechickens. The meat chickens will live in chicken tractors where they will get to feed on all the bugs, which reduces the need for feed, while they fertilizing the fields.
Last year, 2017, we sold the goat herd which reduced our work load and costs. We also re-homed the dogs to the same farm this year. It was painful to see them go, but without the goats or chickens there was no reason to keep them. They are quite happy at their new home with their goats.
The only livestock remaining are the pigs, and they are currently staying at a neighbors farm. They kept breaking out of their pen, and running straight through their electric fence. A few weeks ago they escaped for the fourth time and our neighbor suggested they stay at his farm where they could not break out, until next month when it will be time for them to go to the butcher.
We did sacrifice one of the pigs during their last excursion because it refused to get into the trailer with the other three. We will be sending those three to the butcher at the end of November.
This was our first time raising pigs and it has definitely been a learning experience. We have decided to fence a wooded area for next year’s pigs, instead of a penned yard. We have approximately 17 acres of trees which will provide lots of foraging opportunity, as well as adjoining pasture where they can feed.
So, these days it is rather lonely at the farm when not even the buzzards are around looking for prey, but hopefully the emptiness won’t last much longer.
Our pigs were/are escape artist breaking out of their pen and ignoring the electric wire they ran off four times. The first time they were missing only one night. The second time, four days. On their third excursion they were missing for two weeks before finding their way home…. by that time we had given up hope on seeing them again.
There last escape was two weeks ago, they remained nearby, rooting up a neighbor’s yard and foraging in the wooded areas close-by. We could see them, and although we tried to tempt them to follow us homeward, they would not follow us all the way home.
After getting help from neighbors and friends, they were rounded up and loaded into a trailer, unfortunately for most stubborn, only three survived.
The fourth stood his ground, refusing to go into the trailer and was put down. It had been several hours by the time Nick, who’d had his fill of chasing the animals, made the decision.
We gave the meat to those who had helped us, keeping only the leaf fat and sirloin for ourselves.
I had been waiting for the day when I could render lard from the leaf fat of our own hog for years and yesterday I finally had the much-anticipated opportunity.
Because the pig was still only half-way to optimum butchering weight there was barely 2 pounds of leaf fat which I cut into 1 inch cubes then ground and melted over a low heat.
I was surprised how quickly it melted, in barely an hour I was ladling the fat
strained fat into sterile pint jars. As it cooled on the counter it became pure white and actually had the appearance and feel of Crisco with absolutely no scent.
The other three hogs are spending their remaining months at our friend’s farm where they won’t be able to escape. I may be more excited about getting more fat from them, than I am about getting their meat.
I plan to use their other fat to make soap…. which will also be a first for me.
Join me while I make a new batch of sourdough starter. (I will be updating this post daily throughout the process.)
It’s very simple, although it takes 5-7 days to develop. But it’s well worth the wait when you get your first taste of this wonderfully flavored home-baked sour dough bread.
All you need is flour, water and a covered container that holds at least one quart.
SOURDOUGH STARTER DAY 1 :
1 CUP WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR (I use white whole wheat) 1/2 CUP COOL WATER
Combine ingredients in a non-reactive container about 1 quart.
Mix well incorporating all the flour.
Cover leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
Discard half the starter (4 ounces, about 1/2 cup), and add to the remainder a scan
t 1 cup All-Purpose Flour,
and 1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it’s cold).
Cover and leave at
room temperature for 24 hours.
You should begin to see a difference in the “dough”. It will be lighter.
Today you’ll likely see some activity — bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion.
It’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as possible. For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter, about a
generous half cup . Discard any remaining starter.
Add a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup water to the 4 ounces starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.
Day 4: Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat day 3.
Day 5: Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat day 4. By the end of day 5, the starter should have at least doubled in volume.
You’ll see lots of bubbles and the starter should have a tangy aroma — pleasing but not overpowering.
If your starter hasn’t risen much and isn’t showing lots of bubbles, repeat discarding and feeding every 12 hours for as many dats as necessary — as long as it takes to create a vigorous starter. It should be bubbly and doubled in volumn.
Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Discard all but 4 ounces (a generous 1/2 cup). Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface. Remove however much starter you need for your recipe — typically no more than 8 ounces, about 1 cup. If your recipe calls for more than 1 cup of starter, give it a couple of feedings without discarding, until you’ve made enough for your recipe plus 4 ounces to keep and feed again.
Transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in long-term. Feed this reserved starter with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, and let it rest at room temperature for several hours, to get going, before covering it.
If you’re storing starter in a screw-top jar, screw the top on loosely rather than airtight.
Store starter in the refrigerator, and feed it regularly as we’ve been doing once a week.
You can dry out your starter and use it later when you have more time for it. This would come in handy for times such as going away on vacation or moving.
I haven’t tried drying it yet, but it seems like it may be a good way to store the “discard” rather than throwing it all away.
There are a few You-Tube videos on drying the starter.
I will be using this recipe from NutmegNanny to make my no-yeast added sourdough bread.
Day 7: Today I am assembling my bread dough which may need to rise overnight in the fridge. I plan to make two loaves, one using only starter, the other adding a small amount of yeast.
Although I really cannot take credit for this dish, I do want to share it with as it is incredible!
The Crab/Lobster Ravioli were from the freezer section at the market. The Alfredo sauce was created by Karly at BunsInMyOven
I did adapt her recipe a bit however by using 1 Cup Parmesan, 3/4 Cup Asiago and 1/4 Cup Mild Cheddar cheeses.
Also, I added a pinch of red pepper flakes and about a tablespoon of chopped parsley.
Here is Karly’s recipe:
This easy Alfredo sauce calls for just a handful of ingredients and comes together in about 5 minutes. Toss fettucine in this sauce or drizzle over chicken.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Add the cream and butter to a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
2. Whisk in the garlic and simmer for 30 seconds.
3. Turn off the heat and whisk in the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
4. Continue whisking until cheese has fully melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.
5. Serve immediately.