Saturday, May 26, 2012

Busy at the Homestead

We have really been busy the last couple of weeks.  Seems like everything needs doing yesterday.  Our garden is coming along nicely.  I took this picture of the corn almost 2 weeks ago.  Since then it has grown a foot taller, tasseled and now has 1 to 3 ears per stalk. 
This morning while I was out gathering tomatoes, squash,  green beans and peppers I saw honey bees all over the tassels of the corn.  I was curious if they were ours and watched them for a few minutes.  Sure enough, as soon as they were loaded up with pollen they made a beeline in the direction of the hives.  I was excited to see that.

The Amish paste tomatoes are growing well but my method of tying and staking failed so now I am trying to put cardboard underneath the plants to keep them off of the dirt.  I noticed those lying on the ground will rot and the snails just love those damp, dark areas and are feasting on them.  The chickens are loving the bad ones I am tossing over the fence to them. 
I am not getting enough ripe at the same time to do any serious  canning but I did have enough to do 5 jars of the crushed yesterday. I had 6 prepared but as soon as I put one of them into the canner I heard a pop and knew I had lost one.  I dumped the water and started over with the remaining 5. I hope I have enough ripe to start canning sauces next week.

We are getting a lot of the Campari tomatoes I saved from seed.  They are great in salads and just the right snacking size if you want just a couple of bites of a good tomato.

This is the green bean jungle.  There are five rows.   Y'all are gonna laugh at this one.  I planted what I thought was Roma bush beans.  Imagine my surprise when in a few weeks I had vines creeping everywhere.  I had to do something or would have to pull them all up and start over.  Papa Bear collected some landscape timber that was around the drive and put them in the ground for me to use as post.  I then stapled deer netting to the timbers.  Mom and I spent the better part of two mornings untangling vines and trying to coax them up the netting.  What a mess but it is mostly working.  I have harvested twice with enough for 2 good meals with leftovers.  Now the vines are loaded and I imagine I will be canning beans in a couple of more days.

The bell peppers are doing well also.  I am slicing all of them into strips to later use in stir-fry.

I thought I had a picture of the pile of yellow squash I harvest every two days.  I only have 5 or 6 plants but you know how it is with squash.  I think I have blanched and put about 15 quart bags in the freezer so far.  I canned it last year and it wasn't that great.  It's OK to use in casseroles but we love it sauteed with onions in a little olive oil.  

That is okra next to the squash.  It hasn't decided if it wants to grow or not.  Today I got 2 pods off of it before they got too tough.  There are several small pods but not enough to talk about.  Okra does well for me about every 3 years.  I do pretty much the same thing except I plant it in different areas each year.

I planted one row of sweet potatoes by the corn.  This is my first time planting these so I don't know if they are growing as they should be or not.

The chickens have went crazy with their egg laying now that the days are longer.  This is 2 days worth I finally got washed and refrigerated.  I use a lot of eggs in cooking and baking,  Mom takes some to church and passes them out and I have sold some on eBay for hatching.  A younger couple  a few miles away started buying some from me.  One day he asked if we liked salt water fish and if we'd like some so now he and I barter for the eggs!  He deckhands on the weekends for extra money and gets a lot of fish vacationers don't want to bother with...Works for me!  So far he has brought us beeliners (vermillion snapper) yellow fin tuna, grouper and king mackerel.  I am in heaven. 

I decided to can one of the king mackerels as I have heard they are not good frozen.  I know they are not pretty to look at in the jar but let me tell you, I made fish cakes from a jar that did not seal and I have never ate any fish cakes finer even if I did make it!  I drained the liquid, poured the fish into a bowl, added a beaten egg, some flour,  a minced onion, a little bit of fresh dill from the garden, black pepper and a little salt.  After forming into palm size patties I fried them in a little peanut oil.  I sure won't mind my trader bringing me a lot of king mackerel.  I'll have my canners working overtime! 

 We finally completed the milking stall so I could start milking.  I got the two kid feeders in, separated the babies away from their Mama's, filled the feeder with milk and proceeded to try to make the babies take the nippled feeder.  Notice I said try.  I tried for 2 hours.  Not a one out of the nine would have anything to do with it.  I thought after spending the night without their Mama's they would be good and hungry in the morning.  I was wrong again.  I tried another hour or so trying to make just one take the nipple.  I figured if the others saw one drinking they would all join in but it didn't happen.  On to plan B.  We share the milk.  The babies are with their Mama's all day and I lock them in a separate pen in the evening.  In the mornings I milk the mama's but not completely so the babies can have a little when they join the herd.

I milk about 3 to 3 1/2 quarts each morning.  I am finally getting enough milk to make cheese!  My first attempt was a disaster.  I cooked the curds off too fast.  That first attempt became chicken food.  I studied my books and the web a little bit more and.....

I have my first wheel of farmhouse cheddar and the second wheel is in the cheese press as I type.  I did not order the coloring to make it the yellow orange you see in the stores.  I really don't care if it's colored or not.  As soon as this wheel air dries a few days I will wax it.  I am waiting on a wine cooler we ordered to come in .  I will use the cooler to age the cheese.  The cooler won't be in until next Friday so I will have to improvise until it gets here as I am sure the cheese will be dry enough to wax in a day or two.  Since I used raw milk the earliest it can be sampled is 2 months but it gets better if you let it age for 4 to 6 months.  I am going to make some Chevre in a day or two just to have some fresh homemade cheese to try now.  I made some really good yogurt last week.  Some we had with blueberries and some I mixed with vanilla and honey.  You just can't beat fresh!  My next attempt will be a Colby cheese.  These are all suppose to be easy to do until one gets the hang of cheese making.  When folks say it is an art...I believe them now!

I have ordered a cheap little manual cream separator from the Ukraine so my next attempt will be butter!  I feel we are getting closer and closer to being self sustained.  What a good feeling!

Our last pregnant doe gave birth yesterday.  One boy and one girl.  They are so cute.  

The girl has a bat on her side like her Mama.

If you have made it this far reading...I thank you.  I don't know if I will have time to write another post in the next day so I want to wish all of you a safe and happy Memorial day.  My heart felt thanks to all of you who serve in the military and those who have served.  Those who wear the uniform have a special place in my heart.

Mamma Bear


  1. I'd like to put out a bit of garden next year and do a little canning. I remember the days of my mother canning our garden stuff. Though I strang beans and silked corn, I wish now I'd helped some with the actual canning as well. Nothing like hands-on experience.

    1. GS...I had you figured as a highly educated country boy...LOL I would think you'd have a garden that couldn't be beat! Seriously....Get started making those plans for next spring or even a fall and winter garden. Doesn't look like the prices at the grocery store are going to get any cheaper.

  2. Terrific detailed post. All Wifey has canned so far is chicken. It looks about as good in a glass jar as your mackrel. Nevertheless, tastes just fine. Nice job on the cheese!

    1. Why thank you OJD.. Yep...chicken isn't that appealing in a jar either but it sure does taste good when you throw it in a pot with other ingredients. I have 32 young chickens that will be in a jar very soon.

      I am thrilled with my cheese! It's going to be a long wait aging that stuff!

  3. Bees will hit corn tassels for pollen and that is a good sign. If they are bringing in pollen they are producing brood and need to feed it or at least they think they are. If you stop seeing pollen in their sacs as they enter the hive it can be a bad sign.

    Yellow fin tuna is my all time favorite. I used to vacation down your way every year and scheduled a trip out the first weekend so I could stock up on some yellow fin for the trip.

    Sounds like you are making some amazing progress. Livestock is my next great jump in sustainability.

    1. Preppy... I am glad to hear that about the corn. I wasn't going to but I made a post with pictures of the bees. I hope you have a look and tell me everything that is wrong...Go ahead...I can take it...LOL

      The yellow fin was delicious! Seasoned, then seared quickly in the cast iron skillet...yum...yum... you have very good taste!

      I was going to sell all the goats and get one milk cow but have decided against it. In a SHTF situation I can tie the goats in the edge of the woods so they can eat underbrush. I don't think I could do that with a cow.

      Our next project is a getting a pig but that may not happen this year.

  4. M.B. Thanks for the update. How did you find the time to post??

    1. Hey Rob...I have decided that sleeping is a complete waste of my time...LOL Thanks for coming by!

  5. I had never heard of anyone canning fish before, but it makes sense.

    The cheese looks good! No more chicken food!

    1. Hey Russell... I have been eyeballing canning fish in a canning book I have so I decided to try it with the mackerel. Actually jack mackerel, pink salmon and of course tuna is sold in cans so why not can your own? It is way better than the tin can stuff!

      Love my 2 cheese wheels! Chickens will not be getting anymore. I have the farmhouse cheddar down pat!...Maybe I shouldn't say that yet. The proof will be in the taste, right?

  6. oh Mama - you have been super busy and your garden is mouth-watering. i can't believe how gorgeous all of the food is! and what a deal to trade your eggs for fish - you know that we love our fish up here. and people here have been canning fish a million years - it's no different than canning any other kind of meat. the 2 new babies are gorgeous and so is your cheese! jeesh i wish we lived closer...i'd be helping you out in the garden AND munching - bahahahah!

    on this Memorial Day Weekend, i would like to thank the Marine for his sacrifice. i would also like to thank your family.

    your friend,

    1. kymber...I wish I had you as a neighbor or at least your clone! We could get into such mischief together!...All good of course!

      I think my garden is awesome this year. Letting the chickens in to clean it out after the end of last season really paid off. The soil is a bit better and I don't have near the weeds or bugs I normally do.

      CHEESE!!! Can you believe it....I'm making cheese!

      I think all goat babies are cute! I'm naming the little girl Bat Girl...Need to find a name for the boy...we've had so many this year I am running out of critter names...LOL These two make 11 for us this spring.

      Thank you so much for remembering our Marine. I know you served your country as well so our thanks to you and our neighboring country. You and jambaloney have a great holiday!

      Hugs to you both!

    2. oh - the mischief that we could get up to would be amazing - and we could get jambaloney to do all of the "real" work - bahahahahah! (i just told him that and he said - "i wouldn't mind" - he's awesome that way!)

      i am so glad that your garden is so awesome - i guess letting the chickens in is the right thing to do. now stop saying CHEESE - i just haven't gotten there yet - but man i love me some good cheese!

      after 11 babies i am not surprised that you are running out of names. what about calling the little guy Bat Man???

      of course i remember your Marine. i can't come to your blog and not remember. i had never served in hard combat during my 10yr career - PTL - but i had many friends who did and still are. some of them never came home. some of them came home changed. canadian and american soldiers have been working side by side since WWI...i received much training down on US bases and the soldiers that i met were very enthusiastic and patriotic. i was always treated very well when i was down in the States. so, yes - i always remember the marine. and you, too. especially when i watch the hummingbirds! hugs back to you and the Marine! big ones!

      your friend,


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