Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chickens in the Garden

Blue Maran Roosters

Blue Maran's lay beautiful dark chocolate brown eggs

I got this idea for the individual chicken hutches from Mother Earth News; simple but efficient. My roosters are nearing adulthood (learning to crow...hilarious). As I do not want them in with the hens creating fertile eggs, I decided this would be a good idea as they would be separated from the hens and be a partial solution for the bugs that are trying to eat the entirety of my garden. Initially it seemed like a home run; they immediately started to eat weeds and bugs like crazy and I felt like the smartest person on earth. That is until the dogs noticed them and started to bother them from the other side of the fence.This panicked the chickens and caused them to find a way under the fence thereby practically putting them in the dogs' mouths who we already know from experience to be proficient chicken killers. We narrowly rescued the chickens and spent hours putting boards along the bottom of the fence to hold it down. So, now I think that the chickens are contained and safe. Silly me. They were content and seemingly contained for a few hours after which, when we checked, they were nowhere to be seen. Evidently, they stood on top of their hutches and used them to get to a height that enabled them to fly over the top of the fence. After a group effort chasing them through the woods, we returned them to temporary quarters and have decided to have them in the garden only when we are in there working. I haven't given up though. . Next year......better, chicken containing, garden fence.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yummy Stuff

First pit the Cherries
Time to do some canning. On the menu for today is Whole Cherries in Balsamic Cracked Pepper Syrup. I can tell you, this stuff is delicious...and, it gave me a reason to buy a cherry pitter. Being the kitchen gadget junkie that I am, this was just a little added joy to my day. I adapted this recipe from one in Robin Mather's book, The Feast Nearby. She made it with strawberries. Her book has many really good recipes in it.
 Very easy recipe. You pit the cherries, Then layer them in 2 cups of the sugar. Cover and let sit over night. That draws the juice from the berries. The next day, drain the cherries over a pot and set them aside. To the juice in the pot, add the balsamic vinegar, the remainder of the sugar and the pepper corns. Bring to a boil and bring to a temperature of 220 degrees. Add the cherries and bring back up to the same temp. Turn off the heat and let set a few minutes. Prepare your jars and canner and process for 10 minutes.

The trick to successful canning is to keep everything spotlessly clean and process for the time specified: don't cut corners. Wipe the lips of the jars with a clean cloth before putting on the lids. The rings should be snug but don't over tighten. You'll hear the jars sealing after they are out of the canner, they make a popping sound. If you push down on the lid and they don't give, you know they sealed. The flavor of home canned food is so much nicer than store bought. It's easy....try it!

Whole Cherries in Balsamic~Black Pepper Syrup

 5 pounds of fresh cherries
5 cups of sugar
3 cups good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns

Pit cherries, spread half in a shallow pan and sprinkle with 1 cup of the sugar.  Add the remaining berries and sprinkle with another cup of sugar. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature. The next day, transfer them to a colander set over a good sized pot. Let them drain. Set the colander with the berries over a bowl. Add the remaining 3 cups sugar, vinegar and peppercorns to pot with juice. Bring to a rolling boil stirring often till it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Add the cherries and any remaining juice from the bowl and bring back up to 220 degrees. Remove from heat and let set a few minutes. Fill clean, hot jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Old Stuff



Old glassware
Recently went to an Estate auction. It was as much fun as I remember. We were driving through town and it was in progress so we stopped and I stayed all day. (with no sun screen.....stupid....ouch) Got a ton of stuff with plans for craft projects, resale and some to keep. Got another iron bed, this one is plain but a good one. I'm going to have it sand blasted like the last one but I will spray paint this one and let my daughter borrow it until she moves in November. The old croquet set was something I really wanted and will probably keep it. I didn't get it as cheaply as I had hope. Seems every time I wanted something, there was one other person that was bent on having it as well. That's how auctions go. Pay too much for some things and very little for others, so it evens out. The croquet set had about 30 years of crud on it and all I did was clean it with a wood cleaner and then apply liquid gold wood treatment on it a couple of time. I looks great but keeps it's aged look. Oh if only I had more room for glassware.........you can never have enough! (Mark (my husband) would beg to differ........

Friday, June 1, 2012

Around the farm

Second stories added

Strong Colonies
Bee Chic
Chickens are growing up
Quails are starting to lay
French Breakfast Radishes

Isa's booboo is better

Been a busy couple of weeks around here and yet, haven't even begun to catch up. But, I've made a dent in it and there is hope yet. After being laid up recuperating from two surgeries and a year and a half of physical therapy, I am finally starting to feel whole again. I removed Isa's (my horse) sutures and it looks like it will hold together. The vet's suture job left a pretty nasty scar but I'm hoping in time it will fade and her hair will grow back to cover it up. She's happy to be off "stall rest" and be back in the general horse population. She was really good about the whole thing. The garden is starting to produce. The first batch of lettuce was pretty much a loss due to what I think are sand beetles. Carson the bunny has been enjoying it though. I bought two large bottles of vinegar and need to get out there with mulch and see what I can do. There are two kinds of weeds taking over my garden and no amount of weeding seems to conquer them. One is a type of grass and the other is a small plant; no idea what either is. The chickens are nearing their full growth. Should start getting eggs soon. We've found several quail eggs already. Need to get going on the coop. I finally got the special fittings yesterday so hope to start that today. Been canning today. Have another bed to redo and lots of other things in the works........stay tuned!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Liquors ~ project finished

Finished Product
I used coffee filters and screwed the metal band over it to hold it in place

Before straining out the lemon zest
 The pomegranate went through the filter very slowly since it had more fruit pulp. I wet the filters and tried again and it went through much faster with the lemon but not much difference with the pomegranate so I gave up with that one and used cheesecloth.
The zest looked so pretty I froze it to use later for another recipe

Finished off the liquors I was making. These are exceptionally easy to make. You really could use any fruit, flowers, herbs or what have you. I used vodka. they suggest Everclear if it is legal to buy in your state. It is not legal in Virginia. The idea is to use something that is absolutely tasteless. Vodka does have a distinct flavor but not so strong as to overpower the flavor you are trying to effect. The limoncello is a traditional Italian aperitif which is usually enjoyed cold. I used Meyer lemons for this which are now my favorite lemons and unlike any I've had before. If you haven't tried them you should. They are in season from November through March. The pomegranate liquor is one of my favorites and the brand I most enjoy is somewhat pricey so I thought I'd try making my own. These are simply made by infusing the fruit or rinds in the vodka and then after some weeks, straining them and adding simple syrup. These turned out nicely although I think the flavor could be tweaked a little. You can add more or less simple syrup depending how sweet you like it and the flavor should be better after the simple syrup has been added and it's been allowed another week or so before drinking. I got the recipes off the Internet and there are many.  Now...who wants a glass? Come on over!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Garden Stuff

I'm growing these in my garden this year. I'm hoping they do well and I plan to make them into my favorite sweet and hot crock pickles. They're made with fresh horseradish root. very easy to do. Everything gets tossed into a crock and stays there until they're gone. No canning necessary. Now where did I put that recipe? Oh, well, I have some time yet. I'm going to try to save all my own seed this year. Who wants to do a seed exchange? http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/Growing-Burr-Gherkins.aspx

Antique Bed ~ Finished!

What do you think? I'm quite happy with the outcome. I can just imagine a cozy little room with a large opening window in the top of the barn, spotless white sheets, big fluffy pillows and a soft handmade quilt. I already have my eye on some other piece. Hurry up Mark and finish the barn.......

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Beauty of Pollination

The Beauty of Pollination ~ Check this out, it is stunning....

Antique Bed ~ Project Update

Pictures of the antique iron bed being sandblasted by Giles Signs. www.wetpaintfactory.com . Joe was nice enough to take pics with his phone and email them to me. Sorry about the size. If I make them any bigger they are blurry. The sandblasting ended up being $112; add that to the $115 I paid for the bed and the cost is up to $227. Add to that the cost of power coating which was $125 and you get a grand total of $352. I picked up the bed from the painters and I'll be posting pics of the finished project tomorrow. I turned out great! The rails have the initials, G.P. embossed on them, which I'm sure is the foundry where the bed or at least the rails were made. I've been trying to research it but haven't been able to find it. Any Ideas? I can't wait to do another one......

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Treasures

Virginia Dare Rose

I bought this little rose plant 2 years ago while on our yearly vacation to the outer banks at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island. It was tiny then and I waited so long to plant it that I really didn't expect it to survive. But, it hunkered down under the heaving boughs of my Rosemary plant in one of the herb beds and was evidently cozy enough with the mild winter to thrive and quadruple it's size. It's an indigenous species which is probably why it survived. FYI: Virginia Dare was the first English child born on American shores. Check out the website: it's quite beautiful and will just make you feel good.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Good For a sore throat

Honey Ginger Lemon Tea

Makes 12 ounces, about 2 servings
2 inches fresh ginger, sliced into thin coins
12 ounces boiling water
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1. Put the fresh ginger in a glass jar or pitcher. Pour the boiling water over it and let it steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the ginger is steeping, divide the lemon juice and honey between two mugs.
3. Strain the ginger tea into the mugs and stir to dissolve the honey. Taste and add more honey if desired.http://www.lafujimama.com/

A Nice Little Suprise

I was looking into our woods trying to spot the horses and I saw a lot of white and had no clue what it could be. On investigation, I found it to be masses of wild rhododendrons! I guess they've been there but never bloomed from lack of sufficient sunlight until we had the woods thinned. Just a nice little surprise. One of Virginia's many beauties......

It Was The Best Of Weekends, It Was The Worst Of Weekends

Poor Baby!

All fixed up, happily eating hay
We, you know what they say; you have to take the bad with the good. We had plenty of projects planned for the weekend but things just didn't work out. When I got up Saturday morning, my husband, Mark, came in to let me know Isa had a cut on her leg. Optimistic me grabbed clean water, towel and peroxided and trotted out to the paddock to clean it up and assess the damage. Well, I took one look and it and knew we were in for a nice big vet bill. (I was right.....file it under how to blow through $650  quick, fast and in a hurry, as my friend Renee likes to say....) So, quick call to my friend Renee to get number for vet, said vet called and said friend Renee rushing over to help. An hour or so later and Isa was all fixed up. The vet ended up putting her to sleep for the sutures. It's a disturbing thing to see an animal that large just fall to the ground with a huge thud. Poor thing; she had a hard time waking up and was pretty wobbly for a while. (I know just how she felt) Meanwhile, Dijon, the palomino, who is tricky as hell, was once again crawling under the paddock fence. So obviously we have a serious issue now with the electric fence which is not the situation you would like to have. So, after much puttering and several trips to the farm store, that situation got fixed. On top of that, about 10 minutes after the vet left, Isa's dressing slid down, exposing her wound so we had to do an entire leg wrap all over again. Grrrrrr..........Okay, putting that behind us....the rest of the day was spent feeding and medicating horses, figuring out people food and a little bit of socializing with visiting friends during which time, my three year old grandson decided to run up and grab the electric fence with not so fun results. Can this day be over please? On to Sunday. Another trip to farm store (getting to be an expensive habit), groceries and whatnot and back home to start on that chicken coop when my son informs us it is time to go to my daughter's house for Mothers Day cook out which was very pleasant. Okay, things are looking up! Right up until we drag exhausted grandchildren home so their mother to give them  a bath after which same three year old grandson, in a sleepy stupor, falls into the coffee table and splits his lip open. Lets hope for better luck on Monday. No worries......horse and boy are both doing fine. Hope Mother's Day was enjoyed by all.....

Friday, May 11, 2012

This is a picture my daughter Ivy took of me in the garden. It had been so hot that I bought a simple pull over dress and that's what I've been wearing a lot, even to work outside in. I remember how everyone's grandmothers wore a light dress in the summer to do everything in and we thought is was so old fashioned. Well......they were smart. It's so much cooler. Just don't bend over too far when anyone's around. I remember seeing the tops of many a rolled down stocking.........

Horse'n Around

The Horses
Woke up this morning to chat with my husband, Mark, before he left for work. No sooner did he walk out the door he was coming back to tell me that one of the horses was out. Dijon, the mustard colored horse as my dear friend Renne calls him. He's the pretty palomino furthest to the left in the picture. I went out on the porch and there he was, calmly working his way around the yard eating green grass which is probably his favorite thing to do. I had surgery on my foot so my son had to get up and wrangle him back into the paddock which wasn't much of a feat; all he had to do was get their morning grain. Dijon was right over to the horse trailer where we are keeping it, poking his nose in the door. When we checked the electric fence, it was off. Hmmmmm, don't know how that happened. When the grain was down, Dijon couldn't wait to get back into the paddock. He's a favorite horse who is getting old and we've been a little sad wondering how much longer we were going to able to keep riding him.....ahem.....I guess if he can still jump a four foot fence without a problem we don't need to worry about that for a while. Horses are funny. They are a lot of work but a joy to be around. They have distinct personalities and can be fiercely loyal......or not. The other two horses we have here are Isa (in the middle) who is an American Cream Draft / Paint cross and Boo Boo (Fleeting Spirit) a grey thoroughbred. The ACD is mine, the other two are my friend Renne's. She's evented them and fox hunted them many times in the past so it doesn't surprise me when one of them jumps the fence; it's a wonder we keep them in at all!