Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tomato Season

 

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It’s finally tomato season!  Mostly cherry tomatoes still, although we’ve harvested a few larger sauce tomatoes as well.  With the cherries, I decided to pick a bunch before watering the garden last (to avoid having them all split), and trying to cook them quickly and can them as a half-cooked ‘sauce’ to use to make pasta in winter.  My absolute favorite pasta dish is halved cherry tomatoes and basil on angel hair pasta, it would be fantastic to have that in winter… hence this experiment.

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I started by cleaning, halving, and cooking down the cherry tomatoes.  This is a mix of Sweet Million, Sungold, and Yellow Pear tomatoes.  Then I added a Tablespoon of lemon juice to the pint jars, added the tomatoes, and processed for 35 minutes, per OSU’s Extension Service guidelines for ‘crushed’ tomatoes.  They all sealed, so, fingers crossed for a few delicious winter meals!

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Chick Update

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The chicks are growing so fast… they’re already breaking away from Mama!  They are so small they fit right through the barnyard fencing.

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You can see oh the little owlet chick that the wing feathers are starting to grow out already.  The black chick seems to be a day or so behind, and this young, they are growing so fast that it’s obvious every day that the other three area ahead of it!

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The chicks are world travelers these days, spending most of the day out with their mama in the barnyard.  They are incredibly brave when it comes to surviving feeding time under the feed bucket, too, although they know to run for safe ground during the first few crazy minutes.

It’s so fun watching these guys grow… and bonus that we know we don’t have to muck out the guest bathroom when they’re done!

Garden 2012: Week Nineteen

The garden has been changing still, even as most of our crops have either aged, or reached a stand still.  The second planting of broccoli is finally ready to produce heads (and thankfully the deer left it alone when she visited!)

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The tomatoes are finally getting in the swing of things… mostly cherries and some pear tomatoes, but the big sauce tomatoes are catching up.  Few more weeks, guys, keep it up!

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The winter squash is almost ready for  harvest.. maybe this coming weekend.  The banana squash is insane, I can’t wait to show you a picture of them all stacked up, because I don’t think these glimpses are really doing a good job of expressing how crazy they are this year.

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We got a few acorn squash, too, which is nice.. not as many as I had hoped, so next year, fewer banana squash plants, and more acorns!  The butternuts are really late, too, coming in just now, which is probably too late to really get much of a harvest.

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The quinoa is looking gorgeous.. most of the plants still need a little longer on the stalk and in the sunshine, though, so we’ll be giving them a few more weeks, til the rains really settle in.

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Here’s a nice look at the collared deer and her fawn… they came back to visit in broad daylight this morning!  So gutsy!  I quickly chased her off… we don’t mind the company, but the garden is OFF LIMITS.

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Speaking of off limits… this is the third time I’ve had to empty this wasp trap up near the shop.  Luckily, the human damage has been low.. although poor Talina has had to take the brunt of it. Next year: more wasp traps.

Harvest: Italian Plums

We have a few Italian Plum trees on our property, but for whatever reason they are not producing much, and they seem to be far behind the general season.  Our fantastic neighbors just to the north, however, have several plum trees that were laden this year, and they offered us a harvest.  They may not have known what they were getting into, though… when we go fruit picking in this family, we take the whole tree!

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The photo above is just a fraction of what we picked… so many plums!!  Thanks, Deb and Zo!

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We made rhubarb plum jam and anise-plum jam the first round.  For the second round, I followed a recipe for Asian Plum BBQ Sauce that sounded reminicient of the BBQ sauce I’ve always made and loved (handed down from my godfather, years ago).  The pre-canning version tasted pretty good… looking forward to trying it after the flavors have melded a bit more on the shelf.

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In addition to the BBQ sauce, I also churned out more anice flavored jam (we didn’t get much the first time, and it was a hit!), and experimented with shiso flavored jam.  The shiso didn’t impart as much flavor as I was hoping… but maybe after a few months in the jar it’ll taste more impressive.

Here’s to a happy pantry!

 

Edamame

My first real experience with edamame was when I was in Japan, many many years ago.  It’s hard to imagine, but just less than 20 years ago, Japanese food was not nearly as common or accessible as it is today.  Edamame was not commonly available in grocery stores.  It was served in Japanese restaurants, but those were pretty rare, too.

When I was in Japan, my host family stopped one day along the road near their house, and bought branches that looked just like this, from a man selling them from the back of his truck.  We took them home and picked them off, steamed them and added salt… AMAZING.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  I’ve also become quite the edamame snob… partially because I remember how fantastic, sweet, and buttery, those first edamame were.

With that in mind, one of our experimental plantings this spring was a plot of edamame. They generally like warmer weather than Oregon typically has, but with our great southern exposure, I thought I’d give them a try.  They were slooow to put on beans, but today I was picking tomatoes, and glanced over to realize that the beans have filled out and are finally read to be eaten!  At least… I decided they were close enough.

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A few branches from an edamame bush

I brought a few branches in the house, and we picked the bean pods off, just like I did years ago in Japan.

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We picked about a half pound of bean pods!

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Steamed with a little kosher salt sprinkled on for dinner… these were the edamame I remembered.  So excited that we were able to grow them right here in our front yard!!  I can’t wait to eat the rest of them.

We’ve had a broody hen since mid-August, sitting on several fertile eggs (well, what we hoped were fertile, since we’ve never had Verence’s fertility verified).  She’s been a somewhat haphazzard mom, once even spending an entire night sleeping in the wrong (empty!) nest box while her charges cooled off on their own next door.  But, I’d read online that eggs can withstand that kind of treatment, so, we decided to let her sit out the full 21+ days, just in case.  And now we’re so glad we did!  Thursday night we went to put the ladies to bed, and mama hopped down to get some food and water for herself.  Just then,  Talina heard a peeping in the nest box! We looked in and, tada!

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One adorable yellow fluffy chick, and another on it’s way out (upper left white egg)!

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When I checked on them this morning, the sibling had made it’s way out – here they are eating out of my hand (after mama said it was okay, of course).

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So. Freaking. Cute.

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And there’s a third!  This one is all black.  I think this is not an Amaraucana like the other two are, but since mama hasn’t moved yet, we can’t be certain which egg it hatched from.

Here’s hoping they aren’t all roosters!

Garden 2012: Week Seventeeen

It’s September, and the nights are starting to cool off, the breezes are a bit chillier.  We haven’t had a frost up on the hill quite yet, but it’s clear that fall is on it’s way.

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The garden is in it’s final phases… the original broccoli plantings are still putting out small florets, but are mostly done.  This weekend we pulled out the first green bean planting – between the quinoa falling all over it, and the age of the beans, the plants were done.  The goats really enjoyed the treat!

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The corn is ALMOST ready, but the tomatoes are still more green than red by far.  The deer fence continues to do it’s job, but we got another great chance to see our collared deer and her foal this morning, nibbling on the cover crop seedlings in next year’s garden plot.  Nice to see them still doing well!

Easing into Fall

The last few weeks of summer are always hectic, but this August felt even more busy than usual.  We had plans every weekend, and then there were the 5 days we spent in the hospital…  it’s been good to be back, calmer, able to finally start catching up on chores, and just being home.

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The kale we started in the new hugel (for a second time, after the greedy squirrels ate the tops off of the first round) are finally coming up again, this time protected by some netting.  This spring’s kale, which we chopped off at the roots, is coming BACK, with a vengeance.  This is a turn of events we did not foresee, but we certainly can’t complain about an unexpected crop of kale!  The squash and tomatoes that we rescued from the half-off bin at a local nursery are also finally kicking in.. not sure we’ll get anything from them before October cools everything off, but it’s nice to see them recovered.

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The pears in the orchard are pear-sized!  Watching the pears and apples develop this year has been amazing.  We had prepared ourselves for a small harvest, because we had to cut so many branches off to repair weather damage and general lack of pruning… but they seem to have responded well!  The deer are enjoying the windfall pears, but we’ve picked a few nice ones up to ripen in the house, so far.

 

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The corn is massive!  Okay, maybe not really as tall as the barn, but, certainly an easy 8 or 9 feet tall.  I couldn’t resist, and picked and ate an ear yesterday.. it wasn’t really ready, but it was pretty good anyway!  I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are several more ears out there, and several more nice hot days forecast in our future.

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It’s been a while since I shared a garden view like the one we used to take when we were building the garden in spring.  It feels so good to see so much life out there, where the old pasture ring used to be!  The garden has entered the traditional fall phase: “oh my god the plants have taken over”.  This is the season of gardening where I generally throw my hands in the air and let the weeds and the plants do as they wish.  Especially since we plan to fold everything under, in situ, this year, for another green layer of compost under sheet mulch, I’m letting things go as they wish.

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Final shot: I don’t think we’ve documented on the blog yet our collared deer and her foal – these two are regular visitors (the doe more than her foal); the doe is part of a study by the Department of Fish & Wildlife, which is why she’s tagged and collared.  Her foal was born late, and he’s still quite small for this late in the season, we worry about him every time we don’t see him, and rejoice when they show up together.  He IS in this photo… right in the middle, standing very still just like his momma (or instinct) taught him.

 

Pilgrim’s Progress

The turkeys have been with us now for two months: we picked them up on July 4th!  When we first brought them home, they were smaller than the chickens:

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But they’ve sure done some growing in the last 8 weeks!

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We’re down to only 8 turkeys, since we had one for dinner two weeks ago, but the remaining flock is going strong.  It looks like we’ve got 3 toms and 5 hens, which is a pretty good ratio.  I tease the toms every day, and remind them that only the biggest one gets to survive, the rest of them are Thanksgiving Dinner!

 

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They’ve started trying to spend their nights roosting in the barn, which is annoying because we know they aren’t entirely safe there.  But they love it up there, and it is kind of cute to see them all arrayed on various posts and beams in the old stalls.

Since turkey raising seems to be going okay this year, next year the plan is to build them their own coop, and divide the pasture so that the turkeys have their own run available, which will make it easier to feed them separately from the chickens.

Raising turkeys is definitely a different experience than raising chickens.  Where the chickens have individual personalities that were obvious even when they were young chicks, the turkeys are indistinguishable from one another most of the time.  They travel in a flock, always, and seem to make all decisions through a complicated concensus process which ensures that no single bird leads them anywhere, ever.  It can make it tough to herd them:  they just don’t herd like chickens!  But they are mesmerizing to watch wander the pasture in a row, looking just like their dinosaur predecessors.