Apples

Fall is a busy time of year for collecting and processing the wonderful fruits and vegetables we have grown through the summer. While we still have not put in our own orchard I know a few people who have apples aplenty.

This last Sunday I took the kids apple picking with Grandma Linda and we all had a great time. Lucian was up in the branches hollering, “Look how beautiful this one is!” “See how red it is?” “Smell it, it smells delicious.” Fiona’s job was to grab apples from Lucian and put them into the basket. Every once in a while I would pick her up so she could yank one off the tree. Her continuous question was, “Can I eat this?” The girl loves apples. I haven’t climbed a tree in a few years but I was up in one of the other trees picking as many as I could reach. All the good ones were up top. Penelope was content to watch us pick apples, most of the time, then she was happy with grandma snuggles. When we finished we had lunch at Alley Cats which is one of the local coffee shops conveniently located just down the alley from where we were picking apples.

kimg0457I have had a giant basket of apples riding around in my car for a few days and have finally gotten around to processing them. Why in the car? You might ask. Trenton asked the same thing. It is cooler outside than in the house, they all won’t fit in the refrigerator, I don’t want them to get mushy from being too warm and they are protected if it freezes. Trunks are for temporarily storing apples in, aren’t they?

I peeled about a third of the apples yesterday which filled my big crock-pot. That was also as many apples as I could peel without my hand cramping up painfully. We have an apple peeler/corer but on most real apples it doesn’t work very well. I stress real apples because most apples that are not from big orchards are a little wonky. They are not the perfectly round apples you expect to see in the store. Sometimes the core is off center and they can be a bit lumpy but the flavor is amazing.

One full crock-pot of sliced apples and 1/2 cup of water set on low for about 5 hours turns into 4 pints of great looking applesauce. I think we have enough apples for one more batch of applesauce and a batch of apple butter. I’m hoping I can find the recipe for apple butter that I used last year because it was delicious. If I remember correctly I found an apple butter recipe that didn’t add sugar to the mix. I like to find recipes that taste great without adding extra sugar.

Lucian and Fiona both love the apple butter. I’ll have them help mix in the spices when it is time to make it. They both love to cook so it will be fun for them to help make it and help eat it when it is finished.

Firewood

The smell of fall is in the air. Nights are getting cooler, leaves are turning colors, and the buzz of chainsaws fill my ears. It must be time to start cutting firewood and Lucian is super excited.

I like heating our house with wood because:

chainsaw equipment machine tool

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  • Wood is a renewable resource.
  • The house stays warmer.
  • It is less expensive than propane or natural gas.
  • I have to go outside.
  • You are heated twice with wood heat. Once while you cut, split, and haul it and twice when you burn the wood.

I prefer wood heat to other heat sources but there are a few disadvantages to using wood heat.

  • I have to go outside.
  • I have to cut, split, haul, and stack the wood.

You will notice that I have these items on both of my lists. We have an outdoor wood boiler which is a stove that heats water outside then pumps it into the house. The house is heated by the hot water and it is insurable because the wood stove is not inside the house. Insurance companies hate wood stoves inside your house, unfortunately. I both like and dislike having to go outside. It depends on the weather, fussiness of the kids, and if I just want to go to sleep rather than bundling up to fill the fire before bed. If it has been sleeting and is icy I try to convince Trenton to fill the wood stove before he goes to bed but usually we take turns.

Also there are days where I enjoy the process of cutting, splitting, hauling, and stacking firewood but there are other days where I want the job to complete itself. If it is sunny, cool and the kids are cooperative I enjoy being outside working but if it’s hot, cold or if the kids are fussy butts I just don’t feel like doing firewood that day. I guess it depends on the mood of the weather, the kids, and me.

Overall I enjoy using firewood for heat and we have already started working on our pile for the winter. I have a few blisters to show for it too. Last year I was pregnant with Penelope so Trenton did most of the work himself but I’m ready to help this year. Trenton cut a few logs for the kids and I to work on splitting and stacking during the week. After Lucian is done with school we go out there and work on it and Fiona, who is 2, likes to help load the wagon with smaller pieces of wood.

This may be a bit weird but working on firewood is Lucian’s favorite thing to do. He asks to work on firewood before and after school. He is planning to use his four wheeler to haul firewood and Trenton obligingly welded a hitch to it so he can pull the wagon. Fiona likes to help too but she does not have his enthusiasm for the work. She likes horses and wants to ride them all the time. Thank goodness our horse, Jack, is great with kids.

We have also had our first firewood related accident for the year. Lucian was putting tools away and dropped a splitting wedge on his toe. A splitting wedge is a heavy triangular shaped piece of metal used to pound into big, stubborn pieces of wood to split them. It warranted a trip to the ER but he did not need stitches and the toe is not broken. He did have to wear a medical boot for about a week so he did not bump his little toe on anything. Lucian was a bit animated about it because it was just like the one Grandma Linda is wearing. He will, hopefully, remember forever now that he has to have real shoes on when he is out working with wood. We have invested in a nice pair of workbooks for his little feet.

Pig Roast

Each of our children have been baptized  the summer after they were born. After the church service we have a big lunch with family and friends outside in the yard. For Penelope’s baptismal lunch we decided to raise a pig for a pig roast. Neither Trenton or I have ever roasted or butchered a pig ourselves so it was an experience.

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We have been attempting to be a little more self-sufficient and a large part of that is raising and processing our own food. In the garden it is growing, pickling, and freezing vegetables. With the animals it means collecting eggs and deciding when an animal is ready to be harvested. The pigs are ready to be harvested.

The shear amount of time that goes into the process of roasting a pig is amazing. If the pork wasn’t so delicious we would  never roast another pig.

Initial steps before roasting:

  1. Shoot the pig (I’m throwing in this obvious first step just because I can!)
  2. Hang the pig to drain the blood.
  3. Gut the pig.
  4. Remove the lower legs at the knees.
  5. Decide if you want the skin and the head on. (Penned pigs are not the cleanest animals so the thought of leaving the skin on grosses me out a little.)
  6. We decided to remove the skin and head.
  7. Let the pig hang for a few hours. (Meat needs to hang for a while to be safe to eat. We put bags of ice into the cavity of the pig to help it cool and wrapped it in a sheet to keep the meat clean.)
  8. While the meat is hanging collect herbs, spices, and juices you want to use on the pig.
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I was at work for the first 6 steps and Grandma Linda watched the kids. My Dad, Darin, came out to help Trenton which was great because we had never done anything like it before. Dad has been handling various livestock for my whole life so he has 30+ years of experience in processing different animals. To give an example of the amount of time it takes to prep a pig for slow roasting he came out to the house at 3ish and we got the pig on the roaster at about 9:30. When the kids and I got home Lucian was fascinated to find a pig carcass hanging from the skid steer and had a million questions for his papa.

The hanging weight of our pig was 150 Ibs which we soon discovered was too big for the roaster we borrowed. We removed the hams and Dad took home. If we decide to cook another pig it will be smaller.

After the pig hung for a few hours it was time to heat up the roaster and spice the pig. We spiced the pig by:

  • Applying a rub of brown sugar and various spices
  • Slicing holes in the meat and inserting pickled garlic cloves and onions.
  • Placing onions, apples, and garlic in the center of the pig.
  • Filling the dripping pans with apple juice to sweeten the meat and add extra flavor.

Trenton stayed up all night watching the pig and adding charcoal every hour or so. Halfway through the night he flipped it somehow. Penelope and I were sleeping so I haven’t a clue how he managed it. He woke me up at about 5 and I took over so he could sleep for a couple hours before we had to go to the church. Penelope woke up shortly after so she was outside with me in the stroller. We divided our time between getting morning chores done and checking on the pig. At about 8:30 it temped out so we let it pitter out while we were in church.

It was amazingly delicious and quiet a few family members snitched meat before it even made it into the roaster pans. I know I had my fair share before lunch started. My thoughtful sisters provided gallon sized bags for people to take pork home and we still had almost a full roaster full afterward for ourselves.

Overall, I think it went well and it was definitely a learning experience that we may repeat with a smaller pig.

Hay Making Time

Who wants to think of winter while we are in the middle of summer?

No one, but the fact remains that winter will come and I live in Wisconsin which means winter lasts for 6 months! I have to feed hay out to the animals for an additional month after that until the grass has grown enough to support them.  That is 7 months worth of hay!

Over the years I have calculated exactly how much hay I need to make it through the winter months.

  •  30 days in a month X 7 months of winter = 210 days of feeding hay.
  • 1 horse and 3 goats will eat about 1 small square bale of hay a day.
  • I need 210 small square bales to feed out through the winter.
  • An additional horse will add 105 bales to my usual amount.(Yes, there is an additional horse in our future)
  • I need 315 small square bales for this winter.

An additional horse means more hay. Horses are big animals and it can be a bit of a hassle to haul small squares out to them every day. Round bales are more convenient because one bale will last them two weeks or more, but if you do not have a feeder to hold the bale a lot of hay will be wasted. This summer a horse round bale feeder was given to us, Yay! Trenton did a little welding on it and it is now ready to go.

Here are a few more figures:

  • 1 square bale = about 50 Ibs
  • 1 round bale = about 800 to 1000 Ibs
  • 16 to 20 square bales per round bale

My dad has been baling hay and so far we have brought two wagon loads of hay home. We have approximately 155 bales put up so far. Halfway there only 160 left to go! Or (hopefully) a few round bales. Lucian Hay 19

Lucian gets very excited when it is time to do hay. He loves the whole process and would ride around in the tractor with papa all day if he could. My dad took Lucian with him to bale the last wagon we brought home and he maniacally giggled each time a bale kicked out. His job this year when it was time to unload the wagon was to stand at the top of the elevator that runs the bales up into the hay mow and push them over when they reached the top. For some unexplained reason bales sometimes stick at the top and the twine holding the bale together breaks. He was a big help making sure the bales didn’t get stuck while I was stacking hay.

Fiona was also a big help when it was time to get the loose hay off the wagon. My dad uses a kicker baler which is nice because you don’t have to stack the hay on the wagon but is also bad because sometimes bales break when they are kicked out. There is usually a fair amount of loose hay left over on the wagon when we are done unloading the intact bales. We haul that hay into an empty stall in the barn and feed it out first. Fiona did her part in helping this year by grabbing handfuls of hay and bring them into the barn.

Grandma Linda has also been a great big help watching Fiona and Penelope while we unload hay. Fiona is 2 and not quite Kids hay 19big enough to be up in the hay mow yet. She would want to help which is great but she would also probably get wacked with a bale of hay in the process, which is not good. Penelope is 5 months old and needs a person’s full attention, so Grandma “da” came over to watch us work and visit with the wee little gremlins.

Pickling Radishes

When we returned from vacation every single radish was ready to be picked. Radishes are a fast growing crop that can be fun to have in your garden because they outpace every other plant, besides the weeds! The down side to that is when they are ready they are ready all at once.

How do you preserve your radish crop?

There are a few different ways to store radishes that will retain their crispiness:

  • Slice off the tops and bottoms, wash and store them in water in the refrigerator. This will keep them fresh for about a week.
  • Store in a sand box in a cool place, which is also a good way to store carrots.
  • Cook them like a carrot or potato. When radishes are cooked it takes most of the spice out of them.
  • Pickle or ferment them.

I’m not a big radish eater but Lucian picked out the seed for his row in the garden and he wanted radishes. No amount of coaxing could talk him out of it. He picked out white icicle radishes and was very excited when they were ready to harvest. Did he like them? NO, “There too spicy!” Were his exact words.

So…….it was time to get creative with storing radishes. I decided to try to pickle them.

I found this Ball recipe for sweet pickled radishes and decided to give it a try. We’ll see how they taste in a few weeks when I crack them open.

  • 1/2 pound sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Pack sliced radishes in a hot 1 pint jar. bring all other ingredients to a boil and add to jar.
  2. Wipe rim clean, place lids, and hand tighten band. Let cool. Chill before serving and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

I am more of an impromptu cook and I always change recipes. For starters, I had to pickled radishquadruple this recipe for the amount of radishes I had. I also did not have mustard seed in my cupboard so I used ground mustard instead. I used 1/2 tsp. ground mustard rather than 1 tsp. mustard seeds. I thought 1 tsp ground black pepper was a little much so I measured in about 3/4 of a tsp. instead. Finally, I put dill weed into two of the jars to test out different flavors. I also put the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to seal them.

In 4-6 weeks I am going to open a jar to see if the pickled radish experiment was a success or not. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they taste delicious when I open the lid. If they do I’ll plan on traditional red radishes for next year. Not to judge a jar of pickled radishes by their appearance but I think red radishes will be prettier.

Back Home on the Farm

When vacation is over the farm will still be waiting.

We had a great time at WinterHaven Resort on Block Lake in Parkers Prairie, Minnesota. I spent a lot of time on the deck while feeding Penelope and reading with a great view of the lake. We finally had the kayaks out for the first time this kimg03402.jpgyear. Lucian paddled his own kayak for the first time while we were there. He used one of the small 8 foot kayaks they had at the resort and we had a little mother-son time out on the water. It was great!

Fiona spent most of her time playing with her cousin Maddie, who is also two, in the giant sandbox. She went out with both Trenton and I in our kayaks while Grandma “da” watched Penelope. She did much better this year in the boats. She sat nicely while we paddled along exploring the lake.

We are home now and we have a little catching up to do. In the four days we were gone the weeds have taken over and it seems everything has ripened at once. Before we left I picked our black raspberries and the radishes but apparently I didn’t pick enough. Last night Lucian and I harvested the rest of the radishes. I cut the tops off and washed them before putting the in the fridge for now. I am currently looking for radish recipes. I am thinking of trying to pickle radishes.

What do you do with your radishes?

kimg03242.jpgI’m planning to take the kids berry picking today. I think one more picking will finish off the raspberries. I’ll wash them up and freeze them today until I decide what I want my finished product to be. I’m thinking either black raspberry jelly or black raspberry syrup. I have never made berry syrup before so maybe I will try that.

 

Trials of Vacationing

Going on vacation can be wonderful and an event to look forward to, but when you own a small farm the process becomes more complicated. You cannot just pack up and go. Arrangements need to be made for the care of your property and animals. It can be surprisingly difficult to find the special person or people to feed, water, move, and milk a variety of animals.

We have not been away from the farm for more than two nights in years, but we’re going for a little longer vacation in two weeks. My husband’s Aunt Lori has rented a resort for July 14th through the 21st and has invited us to spend the week with the whole family. Although we won’t be able to spend the whole week we’re very excited to get away from home for awhile.

To make this happen we have to find a few willing farm sitters and accomplish of a few lingering chores to make our sitters’ lives easier. Every season has different challenges and with July comes the heat. My sister, Sondra, and our neighbor, Bridget, will be doing chores twice a day for us but I worry about watering the animals when it is very hot. Especially the pigs. Pigs are wasteful with their water because they like to roll in the mud to cool off when they are hot. Pigs don’t sweat so they have to find different ways to stay cool, mug rolling is the preferred method. After they dump their water dish to make mud their drinking water is then gone.

A list of chores to be completed before we leave:

  1. Plumb in drinking cup for pigs. This way they have continuous water to drink but not to waste. Our lovely chore ladies can throw a bucket of water in for them twice a day to roll in.
  2. Weed whip the fence line. Although Jack, our horse, does not test he fence our goats are constantly testing it. We want the fences working at high voltage so animals aren’t wandering far and wide.
  3. Till the garden. Weeds seem to grow twice as fast as the vegetables. To keep them down until we get back Trenton is going to till the rows before we leave.

I’m planning on having our chore ladies come over to practimilking goatce. Bridget has never milked a goat before so it should be fun for her! We are only milking Fauna once a day. She still has a kid with her so if she is not milked completely it is okay, the kid will finish her off but unfortunantly she is not the most patient goat when it comes to milking.

I’m excited to head out for a few days. Planning to read, write, and knit in between chasing children around!

Into Summer

Finally it looks like summer is coming to the north woods. Suddenly the leaves are green, the grass is green, and little green silk worms are appearing in the trees. June is green and I love it.

For the first time we have had a hen successfully brood a small flock of chicks. I’m excited about it. Every year we have had one or two hens try but when they set  in the chicken coop the other hens want to lay eggs where they are. Eventually we take the eggs away but it turns into a smelly mess. If you have never heard a rotten egg explode and sniffed the corresponding odor count yourself lucky. The smell fills the entire barn and lingers. Yuck! This setting hen (its always the Buff Orpingtons) found a nice quiet spot in the big goat stall. zhenThere is an old dog house in there for the goat kids and because they like to climb on it. Mamma hen set on her eggs in there and has hatched out 3 chicks. It works perfectly to have them in the dog house because I can put food in there for them and they are safe from the cats.

We had a fox stealing chickens so I am glad for the replacements. We lost about 6 hens and all 4 of our ducks. I really hope these chicks are hens!

Lucian and I also decided that Franky, our buck, needed a toy. He likes to ram his head into the side of the barn. I get a little tired of hearing him. Dong, Dong, DONG! He does it mostly when he wants his hay, but I know he was also bored. We found him a great toy. Lucian rolled a wooden spool used for electrical wire all the way through the barn and when Trenton got home he tossed it in for Franky. He has been having a blast with it ever since.

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Let the Gardens Grow

The gardens are finally planted!

Sometimes I wonder if having a garden is worth all the work that goes into it, but when the vegetables start ripening I remember. Until then I keep thinking of how much work it is to start a garden. There are many different steps that go into creating a garden and each requires a fair amount of physical effort.

Step 1: Fertilizingzgarden

The better the soil the less fertilizer you will need on a garden to feed the plants that will feed you. Our soil is sandy so we need to fertilize it every year. There are different types of fertilizer that can be put on your garden. While there are chemical fertilizers that will help your garden grow most gardens do better with organic material to improve the soil. The preferred fertilizer is cow manure but we don’t own any cows so our garden gets filled with horse manure. This year I looked after Penelope while Trenton, Lucian, and even Fiona hauled countless wheelbarrows full of horse manure onto the various gardens.

Step 2: Breaking It In

If you do not already have an established garden plot this would be your Step 1. This step requires a nice rototiller or a tractor with a tiller to breakup the sod and get the soil ready to plant. For us we complete this step after the garden has a layer of horse manure on it then Trenton runs the rototiller to mix the manure into the soil. This year some of my perennial herbs died out of my herb garden which opened up considerable space. I decided to take advantage of this and fertilized it well before Trenton maneuvered the tiller into the little space. The herb garden has not been tilled with the big rototiller for 5 years so it was nice to turn the soil.

Step 3: Plant

Now its time to mark out your rows to plant. Trenton measured his rototiller and built a row marker so there is room to run it between the rows. After your rows are marked it is time to put your seed in. If you have time to complete this all in one day, great! If not start with potatoes and onions which take a little longer to grow. Like crop farmers we rotate the location of our plants each year so the soil is not drained of nutrients in specific areas. Make sure to at least rotate your corn which depletes nitrogen from the soil. This year the corn is where the squash was and the pumpkins and squash are in a side garden so they have room to spread. Plant all of your seeds before putting any starter plants in the ground. Lucian, who is 5 this year, is very excited because he has his own row in the garden and Fiona, at a rowdy 2, had fun putting the seed into rows and tried really hard to keep the seed in the lines and not too close to each other.

Step 4: Weed

Weed, wait, weed, wait, and WEED AGAIN! Its a never ending battle with gardens. Mulching helps unless you have chickens roaming around then don’t bother because they will spread the mulch all over and ruin your hard work in 5 seconds. I know this from experience. While waiting for your crop to ripen it is nice to have pre-measured rows that you can run your rototiller down once or twice. It will

zfiona

cut down on the amount of hand weeding tremendously.

Step 5: Grow Garden Grow!

When the first vegetables ripen and taste so much better than the produce bought in stores I remember why I put so much time and effort into growing a garden.

After a hard day we all look a little dirty. Fiona’s grubby little face just shows how hard she worked and played today!

Springtime Extras

The coming of spring is a hopeful time when the sun shining and the grass greening up lightens the spirit. More sun exposure means more vitamin D which helps you to feel better. While you are feeling better there is also so much work to do in the spring and a short time to do it in. Not only is there work to do in the yard and garden it is also time to clean out the barns and barnyards. It is also the time to remove parasites and vaccinate animals.

The goats need to be dewormed on a regular basis or they will develop Coccidiosis which is a parasitic infection which sometimes occurs when there are too many intestinal parasites in their systems. Like most conditions it is easier and cheaper to practice preventative care. Our goats developed Coccidia three years ago. IMG_0047Nora started to have diarrhea and soon she looked a little thin, then Fauna started to have diarrhea so we called the vet out. She explained Coccidiosis to me and prescribed Sulfamethoxazole Trimethoprim Oral Suspension to treat it. I was surprised that Coccidia was caused by an over abundance of parasites considering I had wormed them not a month ago. She recommended a stronger wormer, Injectable Ivermectin, which is used for cattle and swine. According to her, small ruminants in our area were having problems with intestinal parasites that year. We give them 2 1/2 mL of Ivomec orally about every 8 to 12 weeks and no longer have a problem with Coccidia.

Unfortunately this dewormer is expensive but I have discovered that pumpkin seeds and pulp are a natural dewormer. Not only do the pumpkins provide food for the goats but they clear their system of parasites and give their bodies a break from harsh chemical wormers. It’s too bad pumpkins are only readily available in the fall because they work great for keeping my goats healthy.

Another spring project is getting my horse Jack all ready to go for the nicer weather. That means deworming, vaccinating, and hoof trimming. I vaccinated and wormed Jack without any problems, he’s a real champ when it comes to needles. The vet was out to complete his checkup which was perfect timing because he had developed some kind of skin problem that became infected. Between his front legs he developed swelling and oozing spots. It looked like a hot spot on a dog. She took blood to check that his liver and kidneys were functioning properly. Last spring he had a different skin problem so she wanted to be sure his organs were filtering enzymes properly, which they are. She also gave him an injection of a long lasting antibiotic that cleared the infection overnight. KIMG0254[1]When the infection was all clear the farrier came out to trim his hooves. He has been a little sore in the front for the last year so it took a while longer than it should have. He no longer likes to stand on one front leg for very long.

He is 22 now and starting to get a bit touchy with his health. We have been together for 21 years now and he has traveled with me to each of my homes. I know I can’t stop his aging but it makes me a little sad and apprehensive of the future.

Lucian has been working on putting horse manure on the garden so we can get it planted. He is very excited that he is getting his own corner to plant this year. He wants to plant strawberries, blueberries, corn, and tomatoes. This list changes every time I ask him though.