Friday, May 25, 2012

Broccoli, BCA and playing catch-up

For all the years I have been gardening, I have never been able to grow a really nice, pretty broccoli. Something always happened - it was planted to late, cabbage moths visited in droves, the weather turned hot & dry and it bolted - you name it, I have experienced it in trying to grow my family's absolute favorite vegetable. Now, thanks to wet weather and the grace of God, I would like to share a picture of some of the prettiest broccoli I have ever seen!

I am still planting and still adding garden patches. We don't usually grow corn, but will be doing so this year. A patch for eating and a patch for popping. You can hang popcorn in open shucks to dry, then take it down as needed to pop. My grandkids are great fans of microwaveable popcorn, so you can imagine our delight when I read that you can take half an ear of dried corn, put it in a lunch bag sized paper bag, fold it closed tightly and put it in the microwave for 1 minute and 45 seconds. Don't hold me to this, now, since we haven't tried it yet, but we're planning to once the corn is ready!

I also took advantage of where the "girls" had been in their henhouse over the winter. They furnished a nicely fertilized, mostly plowed little patch of ground that measured about 15 x 7 feet. This bacame a new potato bed for this year. I put some of the shavings from their house onto the area, planted the potatoes in ot and covered the area with some old hay. It is not the prettiest garden I've ever had, but it seems to be producing. I did this on Easter Sunday morning, and already have a number of nice little potatoe plants growing. Next year, I believe I will let it be a flower bed. I don;t have a bed for cut flowers. This new bed is easily seen from the road, and it would be a joy to us and our neighbors to see such a large, beautiful bed of cut flowers.

Last week, I spent some time in the pantry, sorting & organizing. We have a fairly extensive pantry, consisting mostly of things you'd find in a farm pantry "back in the day", plus some convenience items like soups, microwave popcorn (!) and convenience foods. As I sorted and made room for the upcoming jars of pickles, tomatoes, beets and more, I thought about how much I enjoyed having the security and beauty of a well-stocked pantry.

My first "pantry" was developed during the winter of 1962, when I was a little girl living in Central New York state. We lived 3 miles out of town, what we then thought of as "in the country". Our area was famous for it's deep, lasting, lake-effect snows, and the winter of '62 was no exception. We were sledding out of our second story bedroom windows! (What were my parents thinking???) All went well until we'd been snowed in for a number of days and started running out of food. My parents were not "country folk" - my mother was a comitted grocery shopper, not a gardener or canner. Eventually, it was determined that my father was going to have to snowshoe into town for groceries.
I don't remember all the details, but he did go to town and did get back with groceries.

I was impressed for life with the desire never to have to go through that again. I don't recall anyone being upset over him snowshoing into town, but apparently it affected my little girl's psyche, since I immediately started keeping empty mayonaise jars so I could fill them up with flour and sugar. When I grew a little older, my sister brought me a pack of strawberries and I started my first garden. I learned to can in  my early twenties, putting up tomatoes, pickles, beans - anything I could grown or buy fresh at the farmer's market. My skills and interests expended and well, here we are!


For us, as with with most of you, spring is really busy! I keep seeing all these wonderful things that I'd like to share with you, take a quick picture and then don't have time to post!  Here are a few things that I thought you'd enjoy!

This is one of our new Sheriff's cars. We used to have brown cars with gold lettering, (see the one in the back?) but due to budget changes, the county decided to embellish white cars which didn't have to be repainted. Our community is very big on Breast Cancer Awareness, but imagine our surprise when we drove past the county jail and saw this  little baby sitting on the lawn!

When I stopped to take this picture, one of the deputies was just pulling in, so I stopped and chatted with him about the vehicle. It is assigned to one particular deputy and he says he thought it was done this way just for community support. We loved it!


This is one of the magnificent poppies that grew in my front flower garden this year. The rain has really made everything so much more thick and lush than usual. And see those flower windmills in the back? There is one for each grandchild, and we have so enjoyed watching them whirl!

What are you doing this spring? Is your garden in yet? Are you growing anything different from what you usually grow? As you garden for the pantry, are you keeping an eye toward beauty? Try adding some flowers or ornamental shrubs just for fun. I have peonies & roses on each side of our front porch steps and the fragrance is heavenly whne we come in that way. Yes, it's importaant to produce on practical terms, but remember to - literally - stop & smell the roses!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Snow Day!

Snow! Again! Yes, I know it's March and yes, I know snow is common in early March in Virginia. What is NOT common are 65 degree days, daffodils blooming, and late spring weather. My husband is out plowing, where last week we were working on the cold frame and transplanting berry plants. The grandchildren and dogs are delighted. The hens, well, not so much - they haven't come out of their house yet this morning - unusual for them at 9:30 a.m., but really, who can blame them!
And yes, these disgruntled but productive hens are the adorable baby chicks shows in the post below.

One of my favorite homesteading sites, Harvey Ussery's The Modern Homestead used to make mention that they don't do much updating during the nice weather - too busy farming! I should make such a mention here, since I don't do too much either unless I am trapped by snow or some other thing that prevents outdoor movement. Between the family, the dogs, the farm and - oh, did I mention my husband and our church? - I don't get much time to do a lot of writing & photography any more. Perhaps this year will be different and we'll be able to stay in touch more. I love writing to you all!

Since I had some time this morning, I read some great posts this morning on the Survival Mom website....learned quite a few little details that I didn't know, which is always fun. Here's one of them:
"Bleach has a shelf life of just about a year, so also stock up on calcium hypochlorite, which is pool shock. Buy the stuff without any additives — calcium hypochlorite being the only active ingredient. Use this to make homemade bleach by mixing 1 heaping teaspoon with 2 gallons/8 liters of water. You now have bleach. For water purification purposes, add 1 part bleach to 100 parts water."

Just goes to show you that you should ALWAYS read through the comments section!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baby Chicks - Again!

Last year, shortly after my heart surgery, I gave away (yes, gave away) all of our livestock. All the chickens, feeders, nesting boxes, lights, incubator and all the goats and their accessories. For those of you who have never had the mixed blessing of heart valve replacement, let me tell you in advance that it does strange things to your head and heart - not just in a physiological way. Anyway, I thought I wouldn't be able to care for them all properly, my husband was beginning to have his own heart issues so I just gave them all away to good homes.

Fast forward eight months. My heart surgery scars and new valve have healed. I feel wonderful - better than I have in years. My friends say I look more alive, more vibrant, ten years younger! It's spring! I can have a nice garden this year and I will have the health, energy and strength to plant and maintain it. So, much to my poor husband's amazement, I bought 8 baby chicks a couple of months ago. Six would have been enough, but I bought two extra "just in case". We had no problems or incidents with them at all, so "just in case" never happened and I now have eight beautiful young ladies, who I believe are Rhode Island Reds. Tractor Supply called the "red hens" and they should lay brown eggs.

Six, or rather eight, seemed like a good number. There are only the two of us. I am not planning to go into the egg business. These are eggs for our own personal supply, with maybe enough extra to put in the freezer. The goal is to be able to have nice, fresh, wholesome, healthy eggs and provide their food from here on our little farm, without buying feed. I used chick starter to get them going, but after that it has just been weeds from the garden and table scraps. They are thriving and happy.

My poor suffering husband has been busy in the last couple of days, building a chicken tractor that is big enough for the girls to be happy, and small enough for me to move around when the weather is nice. When it gets cold, the house will cozy up to my new kennel building, where I can just take 2-3 steps through my picket gate to care for them in the winter. I am pretty excited about this!

Watch over the next few days for pictures of the new chicken tractor!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Penny Saved...

Back in the day, people then known as survivalists used to talk about the things that were critical to survival. "God, gold & guns" was the motto. I never considered myself a survivalist, and I still don't. I thought of myself as a "homesteader", someone looking for a rural, self-sufficient lifestyle. We always had goats and chickens, sometimes pigs and other livestock. There are many folks - survivalists, homesteaders, and those who are now called "preppers" - who maintain this lifestyle and love it. We loved it - it's a good life. But it's also hard work, and when there are no children to share the load, it is sometimes grueling work. Neither my husband nor I have the strength or vitality that we did 20 years ago, and last year, we let all the livestock go. But still we keep a pantry. We don't do it out of fear. We do it out of love for our families. We do it so that if things get bad for whatever reason, food, warmth and shelter will be available for those we care about.

For us, and for most people in our families, buying gold is just not an option. But we can create a hedge around us by storing food, essential items that make life easier or more pleasant and some forms of precious metals (PMs). We like silver - junk coins and 1 oz rounds - because it is more affordable. Today, we saw a great video on something even more plausible for the average family - copper pennies and regular nickels.

Though it is illegal to melt down U.S. coins at this time, the value of copper in each penny is 3¢. That means every penny made between 1909 and 1982 is worth 3 times it's face value in copper. This makes having pennies with those dates a very inexpensive and "do-able" hedge against hyperinflation or dollar devaluation. Who among us doesn't have a penny jar?