Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harvesting in Earnest

This year has been a setback on our 5 year farm plans because of the drought, we have added acreage, we have put more land into production, but the main income stream is planned to be from the sale of cattle and the drought has just decimated every ones pastures and the price of beef on the hoof has plummeted. Luckily we have worked our butts off on keeping the truck garden going through all this and we are now reaping the results of those efforts; Holly has actually done pretty good selling veggies from our roadside stand because most sane folks gave it up about a month ago.

So we are happily eating the tomatoes, the fresh corn, the cauliflower, making jams and jellies, pickling, canning, freezing and otherwise preserving our harvest to sustain us for the next year. We enjoyed a couple rain showers the last couple days and the temps have abated somewhat to the low 90s during the day and high 60s at night......about a 10 degree drop so it feels so much cooler.

Our diets certainly changed when we moved to the farm and during the harvest we enjoy finding creative ways to eat what is fresh. This fritatta that Holly made has farm fresh eggs, cheddar cheese, and fresh tomatoes and onions from the garden. Was it good? Yes it was....a bit of Tabasco, a strong cup of coffee and some fresh juice and it was a morning feast.

And this dinner consisted of a BLT with farm raised smoked thick cut smoked bacon (and man its good), our garden tomatoes and lettuce, and a mildly sourdough french bread that was store bought (too hot to bake right now) but good. Toast the bread , slather in mayonnaise (not the Miracle Whip folks around here use) and cut it on the diagonal. Add an RC Cola or a Stewart's Black Berry soda and its nirvana. By the way, I don't know about any of you but I like Mayo and its just not used around here for anything...they call it Yankee food. 

Yesterday we picked 20 lbs of white grapes from our vineyard and we have much more on the vine. The red grapes didn't do well at all but these sweet whites are like Concords and they have an extremely grape/sweet flavor. So.....grape jelly time. The whole time we were de-stemming and cleaning the grapes all I could think of was Brian singing "Peanut Butter Jelly Man".....Holly and Judy just think I'm a little off...
So once they are thoroughly cleaned and cleaned again, you boil them for about ten minutes then hang them to drain through cheese cloth and its that concentrated juice that you use for your jelly base. Then you add sugar, Sure Jell or Pectin, heat some more, put into jelly jars and cap them, then boil for ten more minutes (due to our altitude over 1000 feet) and poof............

24 1/2 pints of Grape Jelly and it is so good. I even like this grape jelly in replacement of apple jelly for lamb or goat...but we are making apple jelly too so...? One thing I didn't get pictures of is we took those black berries from a previous post and made 16 1/2 pints of blackberry jam. I have been eating it from the one jar that didn't seal right and its better than anything you ever had from a store. We also put up black berries for pies and tarts and as a sauce for venison.

We have had a lot of people mention that we always have an abundant garden and that it must be nice to just go out and pick something instead of go to the store...and it is. But it takes a lot of work to plan, plant, tend, harvest and now preserve what we harvest. We have enough things coming ripe all at once that we would just have to chuck it in the compost heap if we didn't have a plan for what to do at harvest. This is out first mass harvest of corn (we have been eating fresh corn for a week or two and we have sold a bunch). Its always satisfying and look how good our corn came out even in this drought. For some reason it didn't get starchy and is just as sweet as you could ever want.
We wash it all out and then separate the corn we will freeze as nibblets and the corn we freeze on the cob and then process it accordingly. We may not can corn this year as we don't particularly like it..we have gotten spoiled I guess. One thing we have come to appreciate; our old farm house is one quarter kitchen, one quarter living room, one quarter family room, and one quarter bedrooms (with a bathroom thrown in). So in our almost 2000 square foot place we have a lot of space devoted to the kitchen...and its needed when you start canning. We also have a pantry, a fridge, and an upright freezer in our kitchen in addition to the root cellar.....its all come in handy.

We sold most of the cauliflower but blanched and froze enough for us to last over the winter. And we had some that was breaded and deep fried the other night..................so good to take a healthy veggie like that and make it a caloric and cholesterol nightmare!!
The chickens are all doing well and are going to be starting to lay eggs at any time now. We have several customers lined up for the eggs and with 9 hens we should have enough for us and everyone else but its a financial loser if that's your aim. What ever we make will just partly offset the feed cost...but having chickens isn't about money. I was up at the fire station the other morning and came home about 6:00 am and got out of my truck and the dogs came to great me, the roosters were crowing, and I opened the farmhouse door to the smell of coffee...it all just felt right.

And finally with the weather easing a bit the tomatoes have gone crazy. We have already sold a bunch and we harvest daily now and we will soon begin canning more of them.

We have found that when we find a tomato on the ground because its so fat it pulls the branch down that if we pick it and place it on the window sill it ripens and tastes great so we have much less of a loss now. Another tip..NEVER refrigerate a fresh tomato..they not only lose taste immediately they change texture.

So at the end of the day we are slowly filling our freezer and our larder and root cellar. This is what it looks like at the beginning of the harvest, we will post again at the end.

So what else has been happening? One of the cows has pink eye and we are treating her though its frustrating, last night was my first meeting as the President of the local Lions Club and we have lots to do before our horse show on Aug 4th, Holly has been working selling veggies and working on the Fire Department financials, my friend Ed and I are working on installing the HVAC system for the new Fire Department building, I finished 2 FEMA grants for the fire department last Friday, I got all the gages working on the new hot rod and there will be an update soon on the work that's been done

How is it that we are more busy as retirees than we were when we worked full time? 

No comments:

Post a Comment