Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another Update

Since it seems that I'm incapable of posting with any type of regularity lately, I think it's more reasonable for me to just give updates from time to time. We've been on our property for six months now. I've discovered that this time of year is extremely busy if you're trying to grow a garden and keep an orchard alive! So, with that said, this is what we've been up to...

Andrew is turning into a great little homestead helper. (Isn't he a cutie!)

The chickens are now free-ranging in the afternoons. This photo was taken on their first day out of the pen. They spent that first day going no further than the shade of the barn, but now we often see them up by the house later in the evenings. I love that they're helping control the bugs around here and we've noticed that we're going through less grain feed than before.

Shawn spent several days cleaning out the root cellar. The previous owners left a lot of unwanted items behind when they left. So, after Shawn sorted through the old bicycles, mildewed clothing, Reader's Digests from the 70's and 80's, and jars of mysterious liquids...this is what we were left with.

We know that we have to find where water is coming in and fix the leak, then kill off the mold that's in there, possibly replace the shelving because of mold, and replace the exterior door. Just more stuff to add to the "To Do" list.

Shawn already managed to build a very nice woodshed and some crates to use in the root cellar. He loves building things with wood and is really quite good at it!

Finally, I'm pleased to show off our first ever potato harvest! For being our first year growing them, I thought that we had a pretty good crop. We're estimating that we have about 50 pounds of potatoes. The crates that Shawn built will stack one on top of another and we're putting them in my laundry room for now. The laundry room is on the north side of our earth-berm home, so it's built into the ground and stays pretty cool all the time.

Other than this we've been spending our time watering the orchard and garden since we haven't had any rain on our property for about two weeks. We're also trying to control the weeds in the garden by putting down newspaper and covering it with straw. Oh, the areas we already have done look SO much nicer! We're starting to pick blackberries and enjoy some on a daily basis. I'm researching putting in a fall garden. I have some empty space in the garden now where the potatoes were and I have several raised beds that will be empty once I pick the garlic and onions soon. I'd like to go ahead and put something in their place instead of letting it sit empty. We've also been spending a lot of time with the Sears repair man since the brand new Craftsman riding lawn mower that we purchased two months ago breaks down every single week...but that's a long rant that would be a whole post by itself. Needless to say, I'm starting to think that we should've saved our money and just invested in a couple of goats instead!

Anyhow, that's the most recent update and the closest I get to having an "excuse" for not posting more often. We're still loving our busy, sweaty, itchy, achy, productive lives as homesteaders!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sharing Something With You

I found this blog post and enjoyed it very much. Like the author, I've found that becoming more self-sufficient and firm in my beliefs has been very empowering. Anyhow, I wanted to pass it along in the hopes that you would enjoy it too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Fermenting Party...What's That?

So, yesterday I had a great time when some friends came over here for a Fermenting Party. What's a Fermenting Party you ask? Well, according to us, it's when a group of crunchy-granola ladies get together to make sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and ginger beer. Foods served during the party included grassfed beef stew, black cherry kombucha, organic blueberries from the garden, and 70% Lindt chocolate. Talk during the Fermentation Party included words like: probiotics, bacteria, and yeast.

You know, when I go back and re-read the above paragraph it sure makes us sound a little nerdy or wierd or something, but that's ok...I had a great time. Oh, and of course I took pictures specifically for this blog post, so that adds to the nerdy factor too I suppose...oh well.

We started off by dragging in all the supplies that they brought along with them. Here Rachel and Amanda are starting to research the process we're about to start.

Here's our huge box of organic cabbage that we all went in together to purchase. A total of 21 heads of cabbage that travelled all the way from Oregon for us to enjoy.

We decided that it was good organic cabbage when we saw this healthy worm feasting on it. Surely, if it were doused in pesticides this little guy wouldn't be around.

Then we got to work processing the cabbage. Amanda worked nearly all day long with an adorable bundle of extra weight strapped to her back. Ava was so content throughout the whole process.

The food processor that Amanda borrowed from her Mom was a HUGE blessing. I can't imagine how long it would've taken us to do all that work by hand.

My job was to be the "sqoosher." This involved me adding sea salt to the cabbage and squeezing it to break down the fibers. At this point, Rachel went insane and decided that a picture of me had to be on the blog. So, here I am, in all my non-photogenic glory in the process of "sqooshing."

The kids enjoyed the party too.

More processing

More sqooshing

After all the hours (yes, hours!) of processing and sqooshing, getting to the point of filling our jars felt like a huge milestone for me. I thought the green cabbage, purple cabbage, and carrots all combined made it turn out real pretty.

When it was all said and done we had a total of 4 gallons of sauerkraut, 4 batches of ginger beer, and some ginger carrots. I'm really looking forward to the ginger beer. It certainly doesn't sound appealing to me, but the ladies assured me it's not really's more like ginger ale.

Then we had to take care of the clean up, but I'll spare you pictures of that. Take my word for it though, my kitchen wasn't pretty after the Fermenting Party.

Lessons learned for next time:
1) Start earlier! They arrived at my home around 1pm and we didn't finish until after 10pm. Granted, we did visit while we were working and that added to our time, but it also made it much more enjoyable and I wouldn't change that a bit. Next time though, I think I'll invite everyone over and just make a day of it.

2) Only use wide-mouth canning jars. It was harder to tamp down the sauerkraut in the regular-mouth jars. The wider opening allowed us to use our hands to tamp.

3) Bring more lids. We started getting creative at the end with finding methods of covering the jars for travelling home. We foraged for lids and once those were all gone we had to resort to plastic wrap and rubber bands!

We had such a good time that we're already planning another Fermenting Party for the fall. We'd also like to get together to make soap and process apples (assuming Shawn and I manage to keep everything alive until harvest!). Thank you ladies for coming over. I loved it and cannot wait to do it again!

This post has been linked to Real Food Wednesday. To get more information on preparing healthy foods for your family, click here.