Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Figs, Glorious Figs!!

 I love figs!  We have several varieties.  Brown Turkey,  Brunswick, Black Mission, and a new one we got from my husband's dad that has the biggest figs I have ever seen, and named it Grandaddy Fig.

The Brown Turkey is our biggest producer here in North Carolina and has a good flavor.

The Brunswick stands out because of it's long finger like leaves.  It is a more golden color as it ripens.  Unless I am doing something wrong, it is not my favorite in taste.

The Black Mission Fig is my favorite just for eating.  It has the sweetest taste when allowed to fully ripen.  Love it!

The Grandaddy Fig is new this year.  We dug it up from under it's mother tree.  From the mother, we know the figs are huge.  It looks like a huge Brown Turkey fig when it is ripe, but has a slightly watered down taste from the Brown Turkey Fig.  Still good though.

When the figs are coming in slowly, I make fig preserves.  This recipe is one I developed myself, as I prefer to not use anything that I don't know what is in it (including pectin).  Wash figs, remove stems and any spots and half or quarter them, depending on size.  Measure the quantity and put into a kettle that would hold at least twice as much volume as the figs, as they will foam up at the end of cooking.  Add as much sugar as you had figs and a teaspoon of lemon juice for every cup of figs (remember 3 teaspoons = one Tablespoon).  Bring to a boil on low heat stirring the sugar and lemon juice into the figs.  Simmer until it reaches jellying temperature at 220.  Pour into clean small jars leaving about a half inch to the top, clean tops and put on lids and rims.  You can process them at this point or not.  (I just leave them and check to see if they sealed as they were cooling down.)

Another recipe I recently made was that I halved the figs in a pie plate, drizzled with about 1/4 cup honey mixed with about a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.  Then I added a layer of ricotta cheese I just made and put in the oven for about 10 minutes.  I served this as our protein this meal with some baked sweet potatoes.

Additionally, we like to put quartered figs in our dehydrator.  These are great in winter salads, or just to munch on.

This homestead life sure includes great food!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!!! (and Sweat!)

Talk about treasure in your own backyard, today we dug for sweet potatoes and were blessed with 6 bushels!  Since it was late, we closed them into the barn for overnight.  Tomorrow we will be getting them out, cleaning them, sorting them, and probably canning the ones that are damaged.  We dug some by hand, then used the potato digger on the tractor when we found out the pitch fork was causing just as much damage.  Picking them all up by hand can make one tired and cranky at the end of a day.  Tomorrow we will take the sweet potato vines to the cows, as they love them.

After picking them up, we let our dogs do the gleaning. . .They seem to love raw sweet potatoes.  

This morning we visited The Point Church in Holly Springs.  What a wonderful service and music that spoke to our souls.  Thanks goes out to our good friend Gary, and prayers for Gwen's brother and Gwen for safe travels.  God is good.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Homestead Kitchen Chaos

When you have inclement weather outside, you try to finish as many of your indoor projects as possible and often end up with kitchen chaos.  For example, it rained yesterday and is wet today, so here is what my kitchen looks like:

At one end of my kitchen I added a shelf to the bay window.  We have blueberry and grapevine plants being rooted, lettuce seedlings growing, tomatoes waiting for space in the dehydrator (as soon as we get out the first batch.)

We were out of coffee beans so I had to roast a new batch.

Bread is on the last rising.  Roasted dandelion roots were taken out of the oven and allowed to cool while helping the bread rise.

Milking equipment has been washed from this morning's milking.
Soap has been cut from the making of it yesterday.  Life is Good!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Cow Troubles

 My cow started limping so I call a hoof trimmer, Allison Sturgill, to come and trim her hooves so we could get a good look at them.  I also worried that the barn floor was too wet, so we locked the cows out of the barn.  Allison came and brought her contraption to snug up my cow to be able to do the trimming.  She did a great job and educated me about my cow.  I had no idea my cow came with a switch!!.  Then I found out it was a tail.  lol.  Which she told me needed to be trimmed, which I did.  I would highly recommend Allison.  Her contact information is here if you live within an hour of Chapel Hill, NC.

Here is a picture of me and my cow that I took so Allison could get an idea of her size:

We ended up liming the barn and adding mulch (thanks honey!!) since we had a free pile of mulch sitting around.  My cow is no longer limping.  Yay!  Thanks for the recommendation Becky!!

Harvesting in dribs and drabs

 Sometimes you just get a little bit of something at a time, so you do the best you can at preserving it.  This week has been one of those.

So I harvested the top half of my basil plants and made pesto for the freezer.  

My husband harvested a pumpkin which I turned into two pumpkin pies (one got eaten and one went into the freezer) and some pumpkin butter for the freezer.  Old small peanut butter jars work fantastic for this.  I also picked some crowder peas that my husband shelled so I could blanch them and put them in the freezer.  We only got 4 bags of 2 cups each this picking.

We always have our eye on the next vegetable, so my husband amended and tilled the soil so we could plant some carrots, beets, turnips and a little spinach, and left a row for some broccoli seedlings later.

My husband also worked on the new asparagus bed coming soon by adding some chicken gold, ashes and compost to the new bed.  Life is good!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Summer Harvest Continues

 So much going on in the summer.  We are harvesting and preserving everything in site.  While we had a late frost that hurt most of our fruit, we have gotten some.  We just harvested all of the Asian pears from our three young trees, peeled and sliced them with our apple peeler/corer/slicer, cut it down the middle and dehydrated them.  Our whole harvest amounted to two gallons of dried Asian pears.  With the peelings and the cores, we are attempting "Pear scrap vinegar" by adding 2 gallons of water and 2 cups of sugar, putting cheesecloth on the top of the pickle jar we are using with a rubber band.  Then in 2 weeks we will rake, then after another 2 weeks it should be done.  Given that some white vinegar is now being made with petroleum and I am allergic, that is what we will have to do.  All you will find on the label is that they are making it with alcohol (which is being made with petroleum, but they don't put that on the label either.)  If it wasn't for corn and petroleum, you might not be able to find food at the grocery store it seems.  A great time to be a homesteader. . .

Other harvests this year:  Lots of tomatoes canned in spaghetti sauce, tomatoes with green chilies and dehydrated tomatoes.  Tried a new catsup recipe of my own using the spaghetti sauce, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and it tastes fantastic.  Okra is being picked, sliced and frozen.  Harvesting fennel seeds, hops, pumpkins (canned), canteloupes, watermelon, anise hyssop (dehydrated for tea), elderberry, blueberries, cucumbers.

Don't forget to harvest your seeds for next year using mature seeds!

In addition to the mushroom forest, we are trying wine cap mushrooms in the mulch under our elderberries and raspberries.  In concern for our high temperatures and no rain, we have watered it to give it a good start.  More mycelium is in the refrigerator waiting for finding a source of mulch (hoping for free or cheap).

There are so many new things to try.  For example, we spent $1.95 on some ginger root at the grocery store, broke it into six pieces and put it into two pots.  One of them is already growing!  

We  are continuing to harvest downed timber to put seasoned wood in the woodshed as we get it split.  Thanks Pam!!

Life is good!

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mushroom Forest


So we invited over some friends who helped us make mushroom logs with mycelium of Lions Mane mushrooms.  Thanks Sam & Zack!!  I can't wait for the mushroom flush!

The next kind of mushroom mycelium is the Almond Agaricus that we layered into composted cow manure in a big tub.  The reason for this is that this variety is temperature sensitive.  So if the weather report says it is going below 35 degrees, we will have to move it in, probably to our basement, as I would like for this to last for years.

We already have blue oyster mycelium in the horse trough and white oyster mycelium on the ground.  As we put them all near each other, I will be able to check on them all at the same time.  

On another note, this weekend we were walking some property with our friends Gwen and Gary.  We were delighted to find some white oyster mushrooms growing on a log.  We found another round fungus of some sort that we did not recognize, but it looked interesting.  Life is sooo good!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021


 This year we had our first elderberry harvest!  For this first harvest, the amount that was all ripe at the same time amounted to 1/3 cup of elderberries.  Still, I was able to make some elderberry syrup using 1 cup of water and elderberries simmered in a pot for 25 minutes, then remove from heat, cool slightly and add 1/3 cup of honey. 

I also harvested and dried some comfrey and plantain to make some salve, as I was running out.  We love this for healing and I also use it on my cows teats occasionally.

My husband and I looked for and found a wild medicinal on our farm called self heal.  

While we were looking we found one of our sassafras trees to be bearing fruit:

Life is good!

More Harvest and Time Out

 New and old ways to preserve.  I learned a new technique to preserve our cucumbers from a friend (Thanks Pam!)  Lacto fermentation is the art of pickling with salt.  I put up a gallon and a quart of cucumbers.  I basically salted them with non-iodized salt, put them in a jar, filled it with water and added a weight to the top to hold them below the water.  In this case it was sandwich bags with glass marbles in them.  

My husband keeps bringing in the tomatoes so we are preserving them by making tomatoes with green chilies, spaghetti sauce, dried tomatoes and catsup.  

We took some time out (a whole day and a half) to visit some friends in the mountains and we enjoyed our time with the Kalmus family.  Karin took me to some local shops and I was able to buy some buckwheat honey and goat cheese.  They also sent some of their blueberry plants home with us and an incubator that is so old, my retired husband did his masters research with it. . .Dr. K was my husband's adviser in college.  Such memories!  We also brought home some blueberry plants from their blueberry bush that puts on berries as late as September.

Beginning Harvest and Catch-Up

 We have begun harvesting and preserving!

I dug up the garlic, both elephant and traditional.  Here they are for their two week curing with stems on.

We harvested all of the peaches and cream corn, and got 2 gallons stuffed full of corn on the cob and 22 packages cut off the cob, all for the freezer.

We spruced up the front of the property (this was a big job taking about four days - my husband did a great job and I assisted.)  I did a spruce up of our mailbox and the rest of the mailboxes that are sitting on our property.  I think we had to wait until he retired so we would have enough time to do it.  

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Produce stand is getting completed!

 Wow, the produce stand is finally turning into the picture in my head.  While it was in existence, finishing the awning was key.  We finally finished it and gave it a cheerful paint job to boot!  All out of leftover materials!  Yay!  Now that my husband has retired perhaps we will have enough time to put it to work!

Speaking of my husband being retired, he had time to make me a cheese press!  All for the price of twenty-five cents which went for the cylindrical Tupperware container I found for 25 cents at a thrift store.  He just drilled holes in it for me, made a follower out of plywood (that I keep in a clean Ziploc bag to be sanitary).  The rest was out of spare wood and hardware.  We had a pair of dumbbells that I threw into an Amazon gift bag for hanging.  Awesome!

Currently we are picking yellow squash, zucchini squash, cucumbers and blueberries.  Life is good!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The garlic scapes are in!


Today was the day for cutting garlic scapes.  In trying to figure out how to use them, I ran across this excellent recipe to help me preserve them all.  I also made a nice bouquet for the table.  The purple blossoms are from elephant garlic, and the white scapes are regular garlic.

My husband and I went to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.  My mom sent us a card wishing us a happy anniversary with $10 in it knowing we were going to the beach and told us to buy ourselves each an ice cream cone.  While this is not a lot of money, if she hadn't suggested it, we would never have done it.  We are too used to being frugal.  We took our camper and parked at a state camp site. In the picture, my husband is trying to figure out how to take a selfie (if we have done this before, it was so long ago neither of us knew how). . .This is on the dock at Carolina Beach.

My brother is getting ready to have hip replacement surgery.  I managed to find him a walker for $2.50 at a thrift store and used some leftover fabric to make a pouch for it.  I also found a cane at the Goodwill store for $4.99.  

I have been working with feed bags given to me by a friend (Thanks Anna!)  I made a tote bag and some larger totes for under our camper couch.  Life is Good!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Lessons From a Cow/Firewood Trunk

 Lesson taught to me by a cow:  If you establish a routine in your life, others can help you.  I started milking every day at the same time, putting out the same alfalfa for my cow, and she started joining me every day.  When I started this, I was having to get a halter on her and pull her to the barn so I could put her in the milking stanchion.  Now I just sing the same song, go out at the same time, and no halter is required.  Since I have been using my electric milker, the milking is done in minutes.  Love it!  I am getting between a quart and a half and a half gallon daily.  I could get more, but I am not separating the calf from her mom.  Since there is only two of us, I am not sure yet how much milk is required to keep us in milk, butter, cheese, sour cream and ice cream.  I have made my first batch of mozzarella cheese.  Yay!

If you have a wood stove, you will want some logs inside the house to keep the fire going.  At first, I painted our furniture dolly to match the wood stove and was storing it on that.  My husband became unhappy with how much bark and debris that method dropped on the floor, so he started putting it in a big plastic tub.  I was not happy with how that looked and began looking for a solution to both our needs.  I tried to find an art deco firewood solution, and did not have much luck.  I ended up buying a vintage trunk, adding some chrome wheels, and highlighting the embossed pattern with some silver paint to flow better with my other decor.  We both like the way it turned out and it gives me a way to hide the other fire supplies as well.