Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Somewhat Pitiful Week of Homestead Life & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  This photo is our entire wheat harvest.  After threshing and winnowing, we ended up with a pound of wheat berries.  A mighty expensive pound at that.  J bought 30 lbs of wheat to plant for somewhere in the neighborhood of $60, of which we planted 25 lbs.  You can figure the math on that experiment.  If you factor in the initial batch of heirloom wheat we bought to plant, which was more reasonably priced but somehow got fed to the chickens, it's a mighty sad story.  While we're on sad stories, the raccoons totally demolished our corn crop.  On Tuesday evening, I showed the corn to my family, and by Friday morning when J went to check on it, it was decimated.  While we're on a roll here, our oldest red hen had been looking poorly, and passed away one night.  We'd been expecting it, but it's still sad to lose one.  Our potato crop seems to be falling in line with the rest of this trend, but we've harvested 1/4 of the crop so far, so I'll reserve judgement for now, and report back later.

It's surely been an interesting adventure this year with the our feathered friends.  We had both good and bad in that realm this week.  The bad was a black rat snake who got into the coop, and ate, kicked out of the nest, or cracked every egg that was under the broody hen.  So, she's back with the rest of the flock, and there will be no chicks July 17th.  The good bit is a pair of cardinals who made a nest in the winterberry next to the driveway, at the edge of the orchard.  I'm close by every day, picking blueberries, gathering fallen apples and such, so it will be fun to view.  I'm happy to be joining in with The Prudent Homemaker today.

It's always a pleasure to eat what we have grown on this land.  Right now, it's squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, herbs and blueberries eaten fresh.  I've been asked how much of our food we grow.  Though it's hard to tell, the last time I was asked, I said I guessed around 50%.  It may just seem that way, being we also have a stocked pantry, but it's not too rare to have a meal totally from here, except for salt and olive oil.  I know it would be possible to figure out, but it would take a lot of record keeping, and there's enough of that already, with all of the small income streams on this homestead.  My siblings and their families came out for the 4th of July.  Everyone brought a dish, and besides the store bought meat, buns, beverages and corn we provided, we shared dill pickles and dill relish canned last year, fresh sliced tomatoes, and mint ice cream which used our mint and egg yolks.  I also made herb tea, which was a hit.  We shared cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and pickles to be taken home.  Even so, I put up a canner full of summer squash the next day.  Not as many soap seconds went away as I'd hoped, but about half found new homes.

I've given blueberry lime jam as gifts, and had a request for more, so I canned a batch with our blueberries one day.  A rebate for the pups flea and tick medicine was filled out and mailed in.  We've continued to get orders in our online shop.  After J fabricates the orders, I clean, paint, then pack them for shipping, so very grateful for the sales that continue to trickle in.  Recycled items are used as much as possible for packing materials.  There was leftover grilled corn from the 4th, and I used it in the first recipe shared in this post.  I sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and "roasted" okra in the wok to go with it.  I hadn't thought about okra lately, but we need to eat down what's frozen, because it won't be long before we'll have it fresh again.  Once garden produce starts to come into the house, the fruit flies show up.  I made a couple of traps with jelly jars, vinegar, water, a little dish soap, and a paper funnel.  It's the first time trying the funnel, and I'm curious if it will do better than an open bowl.

I gave the chickens bolted lettuce, watermelon rinds, remains of corn cobs and the cut away bits of apples used in making cider.  In addition to the first quart jar, I've filled a gallon jar this week for vinegar.  Both jars smell like they're fermenting, and I hope both do well.    Besides using fallen apples, I'm using the not quite ripe ones the Japanese beetles are feasting on.  After shaking them off, I cut away the eaten bits and add them to the cider.  It's a good thing I have a bright outlook on life, or it could get downright depressing at times.  Finding a use for the less than perfect parts of this life helps a bit.  I did the usual composting, washing plastic bags for reuse, saving eggs shells to crush and put on the garden, paper and cardboard shredding.  I used half and half that was starting to turn for kefir.  I crushed the pan of egg shells, and added it to the compost bin.

On a brighter note, we do have some lovely heirloom green striped cushaw squash.  Yellow squash, tromboncino squash and cucumbers are going gangbusters.  We've had our first good blueberry crop this year.  There are silver linings in every cloud.  We've had some rain, so we're not having to water the gardens very often.  It cooled back down into the 60's last night, so we were able to open the house up and should be able to again tonight.  We've got lots of good things to eat, even if it's not sweet corn.  The wind was rocking and rolling before a thunderstorm last evening, and when I walked this morning, there were gifts of usnea.  Tonight I'm making pasta sauce with fresh picked tomatoes and herbs, our onions and garlic.  Add a glass of wine.  Life is good.    

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