Monday, July 17, 2017

Let there be fruit!

We're having a great year with our fruit so far. I've made so many batches of jam that I think I have the routine down pat. It has definitely become normal to find me out in the drying shed over our 60,000 btu burner boiling down a big vat of yummy jam or this past week, red currant jelly.

Oh the beauty!

Last year we pruned our currants. Wrong. So we hardly got any fruit at all. This year we are reaping the reward of leaving them the heck alone. Besides a bit of aged manure and plenty of water, we've not done a thing and gotten plenty of black currants and just barely enough red to make jelly with which we are guarding jealously. We may part with some of it but not much!

Just before the currants came on I actually had to stop picking the strawberries. They just kept giving us more fruit but I had to let the slugs have it, there was simply too many other things being neglected. Ah! if only there were more than two of us!  Oh well. Maybe the slugs will have mercy on the strawberries next year because I turned the blind eye at the end of the season this year? 
Not hardly.

The other success is our 7 sister rose bush. Originally my mother's who bought it of a master rosarian who had, at one time, grown over 500 roses, it traveled from the midwest to my upstate ny place in a pot, much abused since I didn't plant it immediately, survived and at this, year three, decided it was liking its spot next to the outhouse just fine and might stay awhile.

And finally, our black raspberries are coming on. Not a lot, but still. We are grateful. God bless and until next time!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Photos and Other Hiccups

Just begin!
Sometimes since it feels like I'm writing to a good friend when I write posts, I forget that I don't have to keep to a timeline. So though it's been a long time since I've written, I don't have to fill in the gap. It would be nice and possibly interesting (ahem; boring) to go into detail on all you've missed. The ridiculous pace, the stress, the successes and utter failures of the past several months. But, well, we have to start somewhere....let's start with now.

Right now, I am changing the name of my blog to Getting to Normal although I'll keep my Fearless Farmgirl persona. Why is it we choose names that are the direct opposite of what we are? I had hoped to be fearless. I failed. Period. But don't worry, all is not lost. Although, to be honest, this past year it nearly was.

When we started this farming venture it was certainly with stars in our eyes. We had big dreams and plans and such. Not unlike everyone else. As the state of NY's regulations whittle away an increment at a time at these dreams, we stop, we regroup, we rethink. But we never, ever, never never give up.

Fall down? Get back up. Every single time. No matter what.

I know this is vague but there's only so much detail I can give you. And I'm sorry for that.

Each day is a fight but it's a good fight; let's leave it at that.

Onward and Upward!

Last year we harvested our first grains which was exciting as all get out. We harvested wheat, oats and a smidge of barley.  We found someone to faithfully till our land in the spring and about a month ago we sowed the oats, barley and wheat for this year. It was an acre all together which will produce enough to feed us easily through the winter. Grains are amazing. So many little bits of goodness on the tip of every blade of straw. It doesn't take much to reap a good harvest. But it does take a lot of hard work. Especially when it comes to threshing and winnowing, which we had to do by hand. We developed our own tools and work on it a bit at a time. We can sell these organic grains at the market and if we get a good harvest, it may mean we can finally do a winter market this coming winter, increasing our income through those dark months.

Last year there were no apples. This year the trees are loaded. Last year we had excellent strawberries. This year remains to be seen due to so much rain that we can barely weed. We've tried but the mud clods that come up with each weed are not good. Better to leave the weeds!

Last year I uploaded photos from my phone or camera. This year I have discovered the joys of Google Photos and am thrilled to be able to take photos off my phone and free up storage space.
(Sorry, little technology jaunt there, we are pretty lo-tech but I want to post photos on this blog and Google Photos is going to make it so much easier)

New this year too is our herbal medicine focus. We have both been trying to get back to a plant based life and I have been studying hard. Harvesting plants I know will help us. Reading books such as Nancy Phillips' The Village Herbalist - excellent read btw.  And hey does anyone know what this plant is?

Alas, I have written enough and it's time to go. Until next time!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Year of the Strawberry.....and the Earwig.

Jewel. I think Jewel is why there are paintings and needlework arts with strawberries. Ain't they pretty?
Before we had a roof over our heads here on the farm, we could come camp out in our tent and work the land, build the buildings and look out at our mountains. Tent living was fun but I'm glad we have 4 solid walls and a roof now; and so are the dogs. One of the first nights we spent in our tent was rather comical. I was jumpy and a little nervous. Our nutty neighbor decided to tell us there were wolves about. I think I must have 'gullible' written on my forehead. It very well might be that there are wolves about, but they aren't about where we are. Coyotes yes and earwigs, definitely earwigs. So here I am, jumpy and I go to pick my pillow up off the mattress inside the tent and an earwig scrambles away and up the side wall. I screamed: "It's an earwig!" and have yet, three years later, to live it down. My husband has a very good memory. And I have a very good 'dirty look' just for him.
Add a little salt, Splenda and sugar to heighten the flavor and still get juice.
Earwigs are not my favorite thing. They pinch. They are everywhere when they are 'hatching' and they seem to not understand that floating around in your water bottle is just going to get them killed, or hiding under the lid of the food containers on the kitchen island, or hiding under the upside-down pie plate or scurrying around inside the basket of fresh picked strawberries. Or, or, or. They are everywhere right now and I guess I'll just have to get used to that. Every year there's a bumper crop of something and this year it's strawberries and earwigs.

A very unhealthy homemade shortcake - delicious of course.

We have around 200 strawberry plants: Jewel, Honeye, Sparkle and Ozark Beauty. At this point we are eating strawberries every day and loving it. We made two batches of jam, froze some plain, froze some with Splenda, ate some in the morning, ate some as a side for lunch and ate some with shortcake for dinner. Last year we harvested perhaps a handful of berries due to our lack of thorough weeding and the ever-present slug problem that comes with living in a damp area. So no, I am not yet sick of strawberries, only grateful for the harvest. Hardships make for a grateful heart don't they?

Going to a U-pick and picking strawberries is much different from growing them yourself. I never knew that factors such as sunlight, heat and slugs would play in to when we pick them.  After a couple weeks I began to develop my own routine, so much so that my husband wasn't sure how to help me the first time I asked for help picking them. I make just about everything I do 'my own' but I never realized how that can be a problem for others. Note to self: SHARE the picking of the strawberries!
My red gingham top and strawberries in a basket; I had to capture that shot!
I enjoy squishing these guys; although I have to use a rock or my shoe. Ew.
Here's what my routine for picking ended up looking like. Wake up in the morning and after breakfast check the ripeness of the berries. Kill all slugs seen. Even if they are only feeding on grass they will find that perfectly ripe berry and wrap their slimy bodies around it, gnawing at it with their wet maws. No slug I see lives- period. Ok so once I checked the day's ripeness I could gauge if picking should be done that evening or wait until maybe the following morning.

Berries in the morning that have a little bit of white on the bottom or are more orange than red, can be left on the plants because they would have all day to ripen and the slugs are hiding during the day, so the need to pick berries that are close to ripe is less great. Once the evening comes, however, the picking has to happen in earnest or we lose more to slugs because we allow them to ripen a bit more. My newest gauge for whether or not to pick a berry is 'Would a slug eat this?' again, especially in the evening.

This one won't be ready for about 12 hours or so.
Jams for the Market!
Well now the strawberries are winding down and we are looking forward to the spring raspberry harvest. This will be the first season our transplanted raspberries have a spring harvest, last year they were still recovering from being transplanted. In the meantime I have started cleaning out our freezer of last year's berries (raspberries, chokecherries, currants, blackberries and black raspberries), making jams for the market and making room for this year's harvest. My husband will make some wine with the berries too and hopefully we will have some leftover to enjoy our berries well into winter. Grow well and enjoy the fruits of your labor because that's why we do this thing called farming!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Letter to Friends

Writing a blog is a bit odd. I always question how much info I should really share. I end up being a little vague sometimes (and probably rightfully so) and people get to read about little events on our farm, but one thing I miss is the feeling of simply writing a letter to a friend.

I've had a few in-life friends mention my blog to me lately and I think I'll compose this entry a little differently.  I have about an hour and a half to spend on lunch today at my job so we'll see how this goes.

Being real isn't always easy. There is so much bullshit in the world, the worst of which is the stuff you tell yourself. I fall in to the trap of wanting others to think certain thoughts of me or see me in certain ways and I find myself tweaking reality to make sure that they do. That's b.s. isn't it?

So for the next few minutes here I'm going to try not to worry about how this post may sound and what you may think of me. You will think what you will. I am going to tell you how things truly are and I hope you will do the same with me.

I am sometimes truly happy and joyful in my current life. When the first strawberry blushes pink and I know I weeded my heart out to get that first strawberry, I am grateful to God and say silent prayers for continued energy to put in to the farm what we need to get out of it. It's simple math really.

I am sometimes truly confounded by life. I don't know how to handle farmgirl, horticulture girl, control freak girl and the worst one: PMS girl. Whoa doggy, some days are pretty rough (ruff?). I try to make myself go out and weed, because weeding makes everything better, trust me, but I sometimes end up throwing myself a big wailing pity party and don't really want to be involved in life. At these times, I am overwhelmed with what we are trying to do but there is no room for this really. And that's the blessing. A busy life, at least for me, means I don't have time to be self-absorbed. I don't have time to examine my feelings (which honestly are often complete b.s. anyway, we are not our feelings) and I don't have time to be hurt.  And the miracle of all this is the less time I give these things, the less control they have over me and gradually, by flicking away negative thoughts and manipulative feelings, I find myself resurfacing as someone who, while shackled to farm life, is in love with her prison because I've never been so free.

When the breeze blows at the farm and our wind chimes sing, a feeling of peace comes over me because we are learning this land and it is becoming a part of us just as surely as we are becoming a part of it.

So there it is, a letter to you, friends about how I am really and truly.  I am good. Some days I am so good and some days I am not so good. And that's life. 'Happy' is a destination and life is a journey. I am not going to be content with arriving at the destination 'happy' or I will chase every little impulse that makes me feel good. Oh there is so much more, so much more. Freedom is letting go of destinations and simply enjoying the journey and I am, my friends, I most definitely am.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When Life Gives You Lamb's Quarters......

The aftermath of hand weeding lamb's quarters out of spinach
We've nearly done it. We've nearly completed all 40 of our 20ft. long raised beds for veggies. We keep plugging away at it, one foot in front of the other. This fall is going to be fantabulous. We hope.  First, we need to keep on top of the weeding. I mean, holy Toledo! That's one of the drawbacks with organic but even if you weren't organic, you can't exactly spray dead your spinach so weed around it by hand you must!

The tasty beast

Our spinach was doing well for a time. The lamb's quarters were tiny and Fearless said to herself: "I'll just wait 'til they're a little bigger so they're easier to pull out".  Ha!  Big mistake. That 'little bigger' didn't happen. Instead, gigantically bigger choking out the spinach, lettuce and escarole DID happen. So yes, get our your tweezers and pull those buggers when they're small y'all.  I admit yesterday afternoon I was feeling a bit disheartened. But feelings are kind of ridiculous sometimes.

And then the silver lining.

Lots, and lots of it
I had heard that lamb's quarters were edible and good but had yet to try them. Last night I made some greens and beans with them and loved, I mean, loved more than spinach loved them. So guess what? Yup, the spinach is out and the lamb's quarters is IN. Rather than look at the spindly spinach in despair, this morning I went out with scissors and a tub full of clean water, whacked off as much lamb's quarters as I could stuff in the tub, wilted in and processed it and we now have about 7 pints of canned, delectable, tender yummy lamb's quarters. I am no weeding around the lamb's quarters and looking forward to a second flush of growth. I will likely be able to can even more and our failure at weeding the spinach bed will turn in to a whopping success at eating the weeds. God does provide, if we but see it.
Wilting prior to canning

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cooking in a rather small home

When people find out the size or our little cabin (and the fact we have no electricity or running water) the two most common questions are: how do you cook? how do you shower?

Cooking was a somewhat easy thing to figure out. First of all, you cook very simply. There aren't going to be any 4 course meals coming out of this thing.

We make coffee, soup, grilled cheese, bagels and lots of other simple things on this camp burner quite easily. We also have a chafing dish that, when enough time is allotted, can turn out some pretty yummy meals. The trick is to be creative yet simple and to think about timing in advance.

Some days, it doesn't work at all. Like the time I just dumped cold sauce in pasta I though was hot enough to heat up the whole works. Wrong. Or the time I dumped an entire bowl of yummy greens & beans made with our beans and our spinach on the floor. That one hurt. Canning that spinach had taken a lot of time.

You can't be hasty in a very small space.  You end up with black eyes, bruised arms and stepped-on toes. Every move has to be a bit calculated. And yes, sometimes you have to scream like a banshee at the dogs to get the heck out of your way before you burn/cut/spill something and they end up hurt in the bargain.

It's tricky. But when you get it, it's awesome. Because you're doing something not many people could see themselves doing and your sense of accomplishment is pretty sweet.

DH has it figured out. One night he made tortellini in gorgonzola sauce. Holy heaven I never thought anything could taste that good. This week he made gorgonzola polenta. It was a close second to the tortellini. We love our food. We do not feel deprived of much. Well, except for a shower sometimes.

So the second question is easy to answer. How do we shower? We go to the Y. They have daily passes and it's a bit pricey but we don't go very often. My hair loves this. In fact, my hair gets to looking so healthy, I don't want to wash it because then it becomes dry and hello lion! Luckily my hair is thick enough for 5 people so I can get away with this for a while.  At least I hope so. I suppose if I'm not getting away with it, nobody's going to tell me.  This is where not caring what anyone else thinks of you comes in; you just can't do what we're doing and think about that because nearly everyone thinks you are cray cray.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's Only March

 And I'm already exhausted!

This thought helps me every. single. day. to be more positive
I do think tiredness is a state of mind sometimes. I've never been a mom, but I know that moms have the exhausted thing down pat.  I really do try to push on. I do. Who has time to be tired with kitchens to build and horticultural advice to give and family to call and church to invigorate and God to praise for all of it?

Not me.

I am not tired.  I am not tired.   I am not tired.

Um, this was over a week ago. Oh well.


 The news this week? We poured the footers for our kitchen. The cabbage seed is swelling but hasn't quite burst into germination yet. I started trying to Bullet Journal. The chives are sprouting in the greenhouse. Our teamwork as a couple has gotten much, much better and we put our statuary back out, we put the gutters and rain barrels back in position and we put a canopy up over the kitchen island so I can cook outdoors in all weather (except the freezing cold kind).

In other news, it turns out that if you don't add anything at all to the outhouse pit besides toilet paper and baby powder (it cuts the smell quite a lot) there's less smell and things break down the way they should. But let me tell ya, I'm not too fond of seeing all the spiderwebs outlined in frost under there.  Add to bullet list: dust outhouse more often this year.

Soon we will be in strawberries and rhubarb and raspberries and currants. I could totally be a fruitivore. 
Until next time..........................................